Then along came Trump, who promised electoral victory in part by shifting the electorate in the other direction. His proposition is that working-class voters — namely, white working-class voters — will be so compelled to vote for him that they'll come out in droves, making the 2012 outreach ideas unnecessary. In reality, though, Trump will probably worsen the party's position with nonwhite voters, and while he's getting more support from white men than Mitt Romney did four years ago, he's doing worse with white women. And there's a group within his own party that's causing the problem.
If we look at the white voting population as a whole, there's a clear trend: White men without college degrees are a lot more supportive of Trump than women, especially college-educated women.
That split exists within the Republican Party, too. We've noted before that Trump's weakness with Republican voters is why he's trailing in the polls, but that weakness isn't evenly distributed. The margin of support that Trump receives from white Republican men without college degrees is consistently 10 to 20 points higher than the margin of support he enjoys from white Republican women with degrees. (In our most recent poll, released earlier this month, the margin was 15 points. In June, it was 36.)
Why? Because white Republican women with college degrees view Trump much more negatively than do white men without. In our most recent poll, a third of white Republican women with degrees viewed Trump negatively compared with 18 percent of men without degrees. Nearly 1 in 5 Republican women with degrees view Trump strongly negatively.
(White Republican men with college degrees don't view Trump much better, we'll note.)
This is particularly problematic because this is a group of voters that can be relied on to turn out and vote, as we pointed out last week. Ninety percent of white college-educated women (from all parties) say they're certain to vote. Fewer than two-thirds of white men without degrees say the same — and the number that will "probably" vote isn't much higher, hitting 72 percent combined.
Among the Republican women with degrees who do support Trump, there's a reason why: Hillary Clinton. Only 38 percent of white Republican women with college degrees who back Trump do so because they like Trump as a candidate. More than half back him because they dislike Clinton.
This appears to be Trump's strategy for increasing his support overall: Keep hammering Clinton. The potential flaw with the strategy is fairly obvious. If those Republican women with college degrees feel disenchanted with both Trump and Clinton, that strongly increases the likelihood that they will decline to vote in November at all. And for a Republican nominee who needs every white vote he can scrape together, that's nearly as bad as having them vote for his opponent.