Exit Poll Data: Education and Race

02/15/2008 05:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mark Blumenthal Mark Blumenthal is the Head of Election Polling at SurveyMonkey.

The Washington Post's Jon Cohen has posted some extremely useful data from the exit polls to his Behind the Numbers blog. He ran the Clinton-Obama vote by education among white voters and found evidence of a large "education gap:"

In each of the states where the Post subscribed to exit polls (and voters were asked about their level of education), Clinton did better among non-college than college-educated white voters. She also outpaced Obama among non-college whites in all 14 of these states, but beat him by more than a single percentage point among college graduates in only five.

This data helps shed some light on the subject of speculation earlier this week, whether Obama is "finally cracking the code of the working class white voter" as one observer put it. Our initial look at the exit polling on this issue was inconclusive, because the official exit poll tabulations show the results by education (and income) among all voters. Since the biggest differences between Clinton and Obama have been by race and ethnicity, the share of African American or Latino voters in each state determines whether they do better or worse among the less-well educated voters in that state.

Cohen's tabulations control for race, showing the percentage by education among white voters in each state, thus allowing for better comparisons across states:

02-15 Post Exit Poll Data

Obama's share of non-college whites in Virginia was, as many assumed, higher than in any other state except Illinois, although his performance among this subgroup has been relatively consistent elsewhere. Obama's percentage of non-college whites in Maryland was similar to most of the other states. Also, as some have speculated elsewhere, his percentage of non-college whites was lowest in three Southern states: Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Somewhat surprising -- to me at least -- is the much larger variation across states among college educated white voters. Obama had large double digit leads among college educated white voters in Virginia, Missouri and Illinois but trailed by double digits among college whites in New York, New Jersey and Florida.

Some of these differences are clearly related to the home state advantages (Illinois, New York and possibly New Jersey). Others may have to do with the relative expenditure of resources (candidate time, television advertising and field organizing) by Obama and Clinton in each state. Do our readers have other theories?