Lost Generation

03.25.12

College Grads Continue Their Exodus From the GOP

college-students
Chip Somodevilla

In his column this week, Michael Medved notes that college graduates are leaving the Republican Party in large numbers at the same time as more and more Americans are earning degrees:

The Gipper...crushed Jimmy Carter among college grads (52 to 35 percent) while John McCain lost this segment of the population to Barack Obama (45 to 53 percent). In other words, the Republican candidate went from a seventeen point advantage (in both ’80 and ’84, as it turns out) to an eight point loss among those who completed college—a crippling swing of 25 full percentage points. George W. Bush represented something of a mid-point in this alarming decline in Republican appeal to the most educated element of the electorate, splitting college grads evenly with both Al Gore (2000) and John Kerry (2004).

The current rhetoric is doing nothing to win back this rapidly increasing group of voters. The four remaining candidates have among them a PhD, an MD, 2 JDs, and 2 MBAs. However, Rick Santorum has called Obama a "snob" for suggesting more Americans should earn degrees and Newt Gingrich constantly rails against the "elites."

It makes no sense for the former Senator to downplay or denigrate his own family’s success story because his parents’ progress exemplifies the sort of achievement that all mothers and fathers want for their children. Sure, it’s important to talk about protecting and growing manufacturing jobs because so many hard-pressed people depend on them, but those same workers dream that the next generation can do even better than industrial employment.

College graduates composed 28% of the electorate in 1980, 44% of the electorate in 2008, and are projected to compose a majority of American voters by 2016. Yet the Republican Party's well-credentialed candidates are increasingly pandering to the uneducated, forgetting that their own success, and that of all Americans, starts with a good education.