The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Is Bannon right that white, college-educated women have given up on Republicans?

President Trump greets his daughter Ivanka Trump while speaking July 26 in Granite City, Ill. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Earlier this month, former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon told the Daily Beast that while college-educated women were tricky for President Trump and Republicans, their votes might still be within reach.

“College-educated Republican women in the suburbs are a challenge,” he said. “You are not going to be able to easily secure their support, a top target for the Democrats. Maybe they don’t vote for the other side and maybe they straggle in because their 401(k) is up. But it’s gonna be a challenge.”

Talking to Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman more recently, though, Bannon was much more pessimistic.

“The Republican college-educated woman is done,” Bannon replied. “They’re gone. They were going anyway at some point in time. Trump triggers them.”

I spend a decent amount of time looking at polls and data, and Bannon’s comments struck me as accurate. On Monday, I looked at how women broadly were lining up in opposition to Trump and the Republican Party at unusual levels; the idea that white, college-educated women might be out of play rings largely true.

The scale of that chasm was made obvious by a close look.

We’ll reveal that gulf by building up a little suspense. Here is the generic ballot preference of white men without a college degree since 2002.  This is that question on polls asking generally who a respondent would prefer win the House race in his district. Unsurprisingly, white men without a degree — a core of Trump’s base — prefer Republican candidates.

White women without a college degree had similarly given Republicans an edge on the generic ballot in recent years, but in the Trump era that gap has closed.

And now to the question at hand.

That’s a remarkable chart. In the most recent Post poll, conducted with the Schar School, the gap was 47 points in favor of the Democrats among white women with college degrees.

Look just at the margin, the support for the Republican minus the support for the Democrat in each poll. Support for the Republicans among white women with a college degree drops off a cliff after 2016.

There are very few permanent political trends. A Republican Party that at some point in the future wants to lure white, college-educated women back to the fold might consciously target that group with specific policies to win them back. Or, perhaps, the magnetic pull of partisanship, which served Trump so well in 2016, will drag traditional Republican voters back to the party over the short term.

If you’re a Republican political strategist trying to figure out your natural bases of support for 2018, though, your instinct will probably mirror Bannon’s.

White, college-educated women are a lost cause.