Survey: American Voters Still Divided by Race and Education

People vote early in Marietta, Ga., on Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

(CN) — Despite demographics of the American electorate shifting over the last three decades, race and education level are still the clearest dividing lines between the two majority political parties.  

The Pew Research Center compiled individual surveys from more than 360,000 registered voters over a period of 25 years, and on Tuesday reported significant shifts between nonwhite voting trends and those of people with no college education.

Most notably, nonwhite voters have steadily grown in number since 1994. They are more than twice as likely to vote Democrat – 40% of Democratic registered voters today are nonwhite, versus 17% in the Republican Party. In 1994, 23% of Democrats were nonwhite and just 6% were Republicans.

In contrast, white voters without a college degree are in decline overall. Noncollege-educated whites made up 68% of Republican voters in 1996, compared to 57% last year. This metric dropped even more dramatically among their Democratic counterparts, falling from 57% to 30% in the same period.

College-educated white voters remained more stagnant than nonwhite and noncollege-educated voters. Twenty-six percent of Republican voters were college-educated white people in 1996, versus 25% in 2019. Over the same time period, the share of Democratic voters who were college-educated white people jumped from 18% to 28%.

Though the American electorate is split into three— 33% Democrat, 34% Independent and 29% Republican— racial and ethnic minorities have been consistently majority Democratic since 1994, particularly among black voters.

Republicans have the edge with white voters overall, with their GOP support rising from 51% to 53% in 25 years – with a slight dip in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president. The share of white voters who identified as Democrats rose only from 39% to 42% in the same period.

Hispanic voters were only surveyed after 2002, but their support for Democrats grew from 57% to 63%. Hispanic support for Republicans has remained unchanged overall at 29% among registered voters.

Eight in 10 black voters have consistently backed Democrats since 1994 (81% to 83%), and only one in 10 supported Republicans in the same period (11% to 10%).

Asian Americans demonstrated a consistent divergence from the Republican Party. Thirty-three percent of English-speaking Asian American voters were Republicans in 1994, which grew in the early 2000s and then plummeted to 17% by 2019. Asian American support for Democrats grew from 53% to 72% between the late 1990s and 2019.

Focusing solely on education and excluding race, those without a college degree have remained evenly split between the two major political parties since 1994 with a net gain of 2% for Republicans.

In contrast, college graduates went from majority Republican in 1994 (50% Republican versus 42% Democratic) to majority Democratic in 2019 (57% of Democrats versus 37% of Republicans).

The Pew study gave researchers insight into which party holds an advantage with specific demographics.

For example, Republicans poll best among white evangelical voters at 78%, followed by white men without a college degree at 62%. Republicans were also supported by rural southerners (60%), those who attend religious services at least once a week (57%) and men within Generation X (53%).

Democrats fared best among black women at 87%, followed by “urban northeasterner” voters at 72%. Democrats were also supported by the religiously unaffiliated (67%), Hispanic Catholics (68%), Millennial women (60%) and white women with a college degree (62%).

Based on the aggregate data, researchers also calculated each of these demographics’ share of the electorate. The largest demographic was people who attend religious services regularly at 33%, followed by the religiously unaffiliated. White evangelicals made up 18% of the electorate while rural southerners and black women each made up 7% of the voting population. Hispanic Catholics made up the smallest measured voting bloc at 5%.

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