The Smart, the Dumb, and the Election

AEI’s political analysts have posted an eye-opening analysis of the mid-term election results.

This fact caught me eye.

Postgraduates, by which I believe the AEI analysts mean those with something more than a bachelor’s degree, were 20 percent of the electorate. They went for Democrats by 52 to 46 percent. No surprise there. Obama, after all, is himself a creature of the university eco-system, and the way he talks reminds me of nothing more than a professor at a faculty meeting talking about changes to the grading curve. All those folks out there with M.A.’s and Ph.D’s know one of their own when they see one.

Voters without a high school diploma were only 3 percent of the electorate, and they voted Democrat 60 to 36 percent. Presumably, this group benefits the most from the redistribution of income going on under the Obama administration.

Everyone else (high school grads, some college, college degrees) voted Republican. Democrats lost the middle class and more.

I’ve been trying to figure out what this means (aside from the amazing educational achievements of the electorate — 97 percent had a high school degree or more). Does it mean that the over-educated have no more common sense than those with no education? Does it mean that Obama really only appeals to the extremes of the educational distributional curve because neither end really is responsible for making ends meet and balancing budgets? What do Ricochet members think?

  1. River

    There’s rich ore to be mined from the data, but one thing stands out. There’s a world of difference between education and IQ on the one hand, and good judgment on the other.

    As Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out a hundred times, many of the farmers in the Central Valley of California have more real understanding of life, death, and the nature of human conflict than the professors in the universities he knows so well.

    William F. Buckley famously said, “I’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard.”

    It’s also known as common sense.

  2. kiwikit

    I, too, find it difficult to believe that 20% electorate has is ‘post graduate!’ . . . how many people with

    high school degrees call themselves that? Particularly those who vote democRAT! We should reall define degrees based on real subject matter vs phony (education, XXXX studies). I’d also love the electorate to be shown by party and how much gov’t money he accepts. I only wish we could limit voters to those who PAY real money in taxes. All those who pay nothing or get money from the Fed, have a confilict of interest.

  3. Publius

    My shoot from the hip thoughts are that if you don’t have education above a high school degree, you have a greater chance of being someone who is “in the cart” rather than someone who is “pulling the cart”. In other words, you are more likely to be receiving more from the government in the form of benefits than you pay in taxes. Thus, you are more prone to vote for the candidate or party who says that they will give you goodies from that inexhaustible money tree otherwise known at “the rich”.

    In regards to those of us who went through grad school, I think you are spot on with your assessment. If you spent six or more years marinating in progressive flavored campus statism, it wouldn’t surprise me if you thought that the Democrats were dreamy and voted accordingly.

  4. Jason Hart

    If I may add a horrible, xenophobic angle, it’s amazing the number of grad students I work with who speak English as a second language and can barely piece together a coherent sentence. Not graduate students in engineering or chemistry of physics – graduate students in business.

    I’d wager that a decent percentage of the Master’s-and-PhD electorate is not deeply leftist but simply accepted the bits of American politics they understood from the “smartest” people they knew while they were still picking up the language: their professors.

  5. Ken Sweeney

    Bend that distribution curve into a metaphysical circle of acquired knowledge, and there seems to be very little difference between being under-educated and vastly over-educated. To paraphrase Reagan: it’s not what they don’t know, but rather what they know is actually incorrect. Maybe both are correct now?

    I like to think of my MBA as a “trade school” advanced degree, learning a practical trade that can be applied in the real world.

  6. Pilgrim
    Lucy Pevensie

    David Schmitt

    Generally true, but I detect an increasing number of engineers and physicians that are left of center oriented (LOCO). · Nov 12 at 6:18pm

    I love LOCO. Thanks.

    It’s worth noting, with respect to who’s “pulling the cart” and who’s “in the cart” that indirectly many of those PhDs, and even the physicians, are “in the cart” these days. In other words, while we aren’t usually getting welfare checks, the government is indirectly paying our salaries. Government cuts Medicare reimbursement rates, and we feel it. NIH gives out grants, and we benefit. · Nov 12 at 6:54pm

    Slightly OT but: Welcome Dr Lucy. I hope you find time to host some member-initiated threads on healthcare reform from your prospective. More physicians need to be heard directly, not through the AMA.

  7. EJHill

    There’s no in-depth analysis of the postgraduate electorate. My hunch is that the largest chunk of the 52% that went Democratic is from the humanities and the other self-credentialing studies. Real-world postgrads, engineers and doctors probably made up the GOP-leaners.

  8. Dave Carter
    C

    I recall a similar study after the 2000 election reaching the same basic conclusion. Evidently, the same two groups were equally smitten with Al Gore. Lesson learned? Study hard, complete grad school, and achieve the same level of political sophistication as a high school drop out.

  9. David Schmitt
    EJHill: There’s no in-depth analysis of the postgraduate electorate. My hunch is that the largest chunk of the 52% that went Democratic is from the humanities and the other self-credentialing studies. Real-world postgrads, engineers and doctors probably made up the GOP-leaners. · Nov 12 at 5:20pm

    Generally true, but I detect and increasing number of engineers and physicians that are left of center oriented (LOCO).

  10. David Schmitt
    Ken Sweeney: I like to think of my MBA as a “trade school” advanced degree, learning a practical trade that can be applied in the real world. · Nov 12 at 5:00pm

    Ken, agreed. The issuance of any advanced degree, whether a research degree such as a Ph.D. or a practical degree, such as an M.S., M.D. or J.D., etc., is a certificate in specialization. Though too rarely done, the doctoral candidate is ideally supposed to be able to field a question from any of the disciplines during his defense. The degree of specialization now required does convert most programs–as you say–to trade schools where the emphasis is on employability in well defined job categories. Thus, the well “educated” are usually merely well trained and broadly miseducated. Also, the academic students are petitioning for acceptance into small (in terms of numbers), narrow (in terms of disciplinary scope) communities of scholars. After working for years as a graduate student, resident, post-doc, etc., for very modest stipends, few choose to risk politically offending the feudal lords (except those of us with principles, guts and some dulling of our frontal lobe functions related to foresight).

  11. outstripp

    What I find remarkable is that many people form their world-view when they are sophomores, and then cling to it for most of their lives, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. I suppose some chemical is sent to the brain in your late teen years that encourages small group loyalty and that had a strong Darwinian advantage some thousands of years ago.

  12. Lucy Pevensie
    David Schmitt

    Generally true, but I detect an increasing number of engineers and physicians that are left of center oriented (LOCO). · Nov 12 at 6:18pm

    I love LOCO. Thanks.

    It’s worth noting, with respect to who’s “pulling the cart” and who’s “in the cart” that indirectly many of those PhDs, and even the physicians, are “in the cart” these days. In other words, while we aren’t usually getting welfare checks, the government is indirectly paying our salaries. Government cuts Medicare reimbursement rates, and we feel it. NIH gives out grants, and we benefit.

  13. Kenneth

    What confounds me here is the finding that post-grads were 20% of the electorate. How can that be, when only 10% of the population holds advanced degrees?

    Was there something unique about this election that brought those people out in such numbers. Or was it that people of lesser education stayed home?

    My hunch is that their sample is simply wrong.

    As for the political preferences of those with advanced degrees, we do know that they are disproportionately represented in academia, public education and in government. Frankly, I’m surprised that they only went for Democrats by 52%. Perhaps that was tempered by a large turnout among practicing medical professionals, who had more at stake in this election than most people.

  14. Robert Promm

    Is a Master or Doctorate in “XXXX Studies” really anything more than a GED in a practical sense? People in these programs are certainly have not been prepared for any of the practical things in life. We have far too many inane programs that allow many more to get a “college education” who would not have one had they had to suffer through math, physics & chemistry for the science types or the Classics, English Literature, History & Philosophy for the liberal arts types.

  15. r r

    The answer is simple. Those without high school degrees are more dependent on government (for social welfare, public schools, food stamps, state jobs etc.) as are those with PhD’s (for grants, university jobs, teaching jobs etc.) and that includes now increasingly MD’s (reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid etc.). Lets not forget that a large number of MA’s, MSW’s, and PhD’s are employed by the government (teachers, social workers, case workers, government stooges). 7 of the 10 richest counties in the nation surround D.C. and many of these folks have higher degrees.

    Both ends of the education bell curve get lots of candy from the government (the taxpayers) and who would want to interrupt the flow?

    It’s not that complicated.

  16. EJHill
    Kenneth: What confounds me here is the finding that post-grads were 20% of the electorate. How can that be, when only 10% of the population holds advanced degrees?

    Not everybody votes. You’re not part of the electorate if you don’t vote. But 20% of those that do vote hold advanced degrees.

  17. Palaeologus
    EJHill

    Kenneth: What confounds me here is the finding that post-grads were 20% of the electorate. How can that be, when only 10% of the population holds advanced degrees?

    Not everybody votes. You’re not part of the electorate if you don’t vote. But 20% of those that do vote hold advanced degrees. · Nov 12 at 7:32pm

    This is especially true in smaller-turnout midterms.

  18. Patrick Shanahan

    Mr. Yoo. Go dust off your copy of The Bell Curve and read it. We are seeing its conclusions played out day by day. The “uneducated” are the dependent class, the over-educated are the protector class – those who feel, by dint of noblesse oblige, a requirement to care for the dependent class. They are both Democrat because, well, that’s what Dems do.

    One of the basic theories of the book is that modern technology coupled with individual freedom would allow people to self-sort into these categories, which would then stratify and intensify. I see it. Look for it to become more vivid.

  19. Jeremias Heidefelder

    “I recall a similar study after the 2000 election reaching the same basic conclusion. Evidently, the same two groups were equally smitten with Al Gore. Lesson learned? Study hard, complete grad school, and achieve the same level of political sophistication as a high school drop out.”

    The Fruehauf Sage hits the nail on the head again!

    Although, I will say that, as a member of the 20% (having my MA in a liberal arts field) I have never been enamored of left-leaning authoritarianism, economics, nor social goals.

  20. Andrea Ryan
    Patrick Shanahan: …Go dust off your copy of The Bell Curve and read it. We are seeing its conclusions played out day by day. The “uneducated” are the dependent class, the over-educated are the protector class – those who feel, by dint of noblesse oblige, a requirement to care for the dependent class. They are both Democrat because, well, that’s what Dems do.

    One of the basic theories of the book is that modern technology coupled with individual freedom would allow people to self-sort into these categories, which would then stratify and intensify. I see it. Look for it to become more vivid. · Nov 12 at 7:49pm

    This is exactly how Victor Davis Hanson described the voting pattern in California. Except, in that case, the middle chunk (voting Republican) are going to continue to leave. If the wonderful Ricochet people didn’t live in California I would say how entertaining it would be to watch the day the coastal elite wake up and find it’s just them and all their indigent constituents holding their hands out. See how noble they are with their own money. But, I won’t say that.

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