Digging through some google searches relating to education level and political views, I found this old Pew study which is pretty interesting. The conventional wisdom is that the Democratic party’s coalition is made up of a core of minorities and educated urban voters who are strongly liberal on social, racial and economic issues. To expand on this base, the Democrats can either pursue educated suburban voters with an appeal to sanity, or amp up the economic populism and go for working class voters feeling left behind by the economy. We can call the second strategy the Thomas Frank strategy. Or perhaps the Bernie Sanders strategy.
This approach has a lot of fans because it posits that by reasserting policies that are beloved by Democratic policy types, Democrats will win. We progressives are basically looking for any excuse to dust off single payer, higher marginal tax rates on the rich, something to go after Wall Street, whatever. So when the hypothesis is that winning elections is as simple as returning to already beloved policies, sure to shore up now crumbling support among working class voters, a good bit of skepticism is in order.
That’s where the data shows the real problem
Thomas Frank would have you believe that the primary problem with the Democrat party is the elites are driving the party to the right on economic issues and overemphasizing social issues. But the data just don’t bear that out at all. Across every issue more educated Democrats are more liberal. That includes questions about whether government regulation and government programs are effective. I will be honest that I am still grappling with these results, but it certainly suggests to me that working class Trump voters were not “tricked.” They are skeptical of government programs and regulation, and have deep reservations about the Democrats’ increasingly progressive positions on racial issue. If anything, the way to win over working class voters is with Clintonian moderation, not Sanders style social democracy. Thomas Frank naturally believes everyone is a secret single payer advocate, which is no surprise since he’s a history professor.