One reason that figure is declining is because the population is aging. Older Americans are less likely to have degrees than younger ones, as we noted last year.
After 2012, the Republican Party put together a plan to expand its appeal to non-white voters, a plan that Trump appears to have largely scuttled. Without bringing more non-white voters to the party, the only remaining option is to gain more support from whites, both in terms of turnout and support for the GOP.
Over time, those whites without college degrees have gotten much more Republican — much more so than whites with degrees or non-white voters. Notice how the light red line starts above 60 percent and fairly close to the zero-line, indicating about as much support for Democrats as Republicans. As it drops as a share of the electorate, it also moves to the right.
That graph shows everything at once. This animation may make the discrete changes more obvious.
That movement is the fundamental that Trump in particular needs to address: moving the light red dot up and to the right as much as possible. “If Trump and the RNC can identify and mobilize these voters,” she writes, “they can change the composition of the electorate and overcome the Democratic advantage. That, of course, requires money and infrastructure and organization — something … we haven’t seen from the Trump campaign.” (Much of the opposition to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary is also driven by white men, but the increase in partisanship in presidential voting may make that largely irrelevant.)
We’ve made this point before, but Walter reminds us it’s worth making again. If that light-red circle doesn’t move up and to the right in this election, Trump almost certainly won’t be elected president. And the day-to-day obsessions of the campaign don’t change that need.
Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.