Hillary Clinton is faring poorly among white men without a college degree, a demographic with a larger-than-average rate in Washington.
Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the latest polls weren’t looking so great for Hillary Clinton. Pre-eminent election forecaster Nate Silver found Republican nominee Donald Trump had pulled ahead in key swing states, positioning him as the presidential front-runner.
What’s hurting Clinton? According to The New York Times, it comes down to a single demographic voting bloc: working-class white men.
The Times’ analysis of polling data shows Clinton faring as well or better than President Obama did in 2012 with all the major demographic groupings of voters — the one major exception being white men without a college degree.
Against Mitt Romney in 2012, Obama performed well among white working-class voters, at least outside the South. But Trump’s populist message — anti-free trade, tough-on-China — is resonating with this group, who feel left behind in the new economy. Data also show non-college whites are much more receptive to Trump’s proposals to tackle illegal immigration and terrorism.
Clinton may only be performing poorly with this one group — the problem for her is that it’s a very big group, according to The Times. In 2012, white working-class voters cast about 44 percent of the ballots. Men, presumably, made up about half that voting bloc.
And that made me wonder — how many people is that here in Washington, and how do we compare with other states?
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I looked at the census data, which only tabulates educational attainment by race for the population age 25 and up. So the data is limited in that it doesn’t capture younger people of voting age.
As of 2014, white, non-Hispanic men without a four-year college degree make up about 21 percent of the population age 25 and up — about 45 million Americans.
Washington is a little higher than the national average for this demographic group, at about 24 percent, or about 1.1 million people. We have a higher percentage of white men without a college degree than some very red states in the South, such as Louisiana and Mississippi.
Not surprisingly, there is a wide range within Washington, depending on the county. King County is at the low end (15 percent) and Cowlitz County at the high end (37 percent).
Cowlitz County matches the number in West Virginia, which ranks No. 1 among the states for the percentage of white men without a college degree. At the other end of the spectrum, that group makes up 2 percent of Washington, D.C.’s population. Hawaii is lowest among the states, at 8 percent.
Does Washington’s higher-than-average population of non-college-educated whites give Donald Trump a shot at winning Washington?
It may seem inconceivable — after all, this state hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
But there also have been some close contests. In 2012, Democrat Jay Inslee won the governorship by a fairly narrow margin, with 51.5 percent of the vote.
State GOP chairman Susan Hutchison recently called Washington a swing state — you can probably dismiss that as a case of wishful thinking. Even so, there’s never been a nominee like Donald Trump, and that seems to be giving newfound hope to some Washington Republicans.