Obama’s Appeal to Highly Educated Americans

Gallup’s Frank Newport notes an unusual finding in recent surveys:

Illinois Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has a much greater appeal to highly educated Americans than to those with less education. Obama’s favorable rating goes from 39% among those with high school educations or less to 68% among those with postgraduate educations. A part of the explanation for this phenomenon is that Obama is better known among those with higher levels of education. An additional causal factor is that highly educated Americans are more likely to be Democrats. But Gallup analysis shows that Obama has a particularly strong appeal to independents and Republicans with higher levels of education, a pattern that is not duplicated by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, or and former Vice President Al Gore.

The data for Republicans is especially interesting:

Obama’s Strong Appeal to Highly Educated Americans Chart

Note that Hillary Clinton’s ratings among Republicans go in the opposite direction, John Edwards’ are essentially flat, and that Al Gore’s are mildly curvilinear.

My strong hunch is that this is just some quirk in the data and that the effect of education is spurious; that is, some other variable or variables not shown that happen to correlate with education is the real explanation. I have no idea, offhand, what it/they might be, though.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    Could be that they view Obama as a smart guy with no baggage and Hillary as pompous, annoying and wife of the guy that raised their taxes.

    Pure speculation, obviously.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Speaking as someone who would no doubt be considered “highly educated” by this poll, let me just say that I certainly have a favorable opinion of Obama as a person, though I don’t much care for his politics. Most of my favorable opinion comes from the fact that Obama speaks like a highly educated adult, rather than a politician. Even when he’s evasive, it’s an articulate evasion. He doesn’t dumb his stuff down.

  3. Sam says:

    Ah, the Bill Bradley strategy win the rich liberals who drive Volvos and live in places like Princeton, Madison, Vermont, etc. while Al Gore picked up the unions and the machine politics. I seem to recall how that played out in 2000. Gore hit Bradley like a speeding fright train hitting bicycle.

  4. floyd says:

    If true, it reinforces the observation that “higher education” teaches more about what to think than how to think!

  5. Michael says:

    floyd,
    Just because educated people disagree with you (often), doesn’t mean there is something wrong with education. All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    Could there just possibly be a politically correct influence on the answer. To show you aren’t prejudice against the color of Obama’s skin you need to say you have a favorable opinion.

    Of course this doesn’t explain why Hillary doesn’t have a similar PC inoculation. Perhaps because there is a lot more history with Hillary that shows regardless of he chromosome status, she would not make a good president.

  7. Michael says:

    Could there just possibly be a politically correct influence on the answer. To show you aren’t prejudice against the color of Obama’s skin you need to say you have a favorable opinion.

    Or maybe smart people like other smart people?

    Again, all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.

  8. floyd says:

    Michael;
    There is nothing wrong with education, whatever it’s source. There is something wrong with blind indoctrination, whatever it’s source.
    It was not my intention to bruise your unwarranted sensitivity.
    By their nature, and your assertion, your solutions are certainly the best.

  9. Michael says:

    There is nothing wrong with education, whatever it’s source.

    Are you the same floyd who also posted this:

    If true, it reinforces the observation that “higher education” teaches more about what to think than how to think!

    because they don’t seem like compatible thoughts to me, and were posted only an hour apart.

  10. Triumph says:

    Obama’s Appeal to Highly Educated Americans

    The highly educated also preferred John Kerry and Al Gore in the last two elections. It seems that the more education you get, the more liberal you get–probably due to the fact that professors’ liberal politics are likely to rub off on you, the longer you stay in school.

    Luckily, we only have about a 27% college graduation rate, so these pointy-headed elites are a minority. The people who reject fancy-pants book learning form the majority, thus their preference for less cerebral candidates like Bush.

    The less educated will likely be attracted to candidates with more superficial approaches–like Romney or Guiliani.

    Let the educated elites have Obama, the rest of us have the numbers! It worked with Bush. There is little likelihood that the pattern won’t continue in ’08.

  11. just me says:

    I don’t think favorability ratings have a whole lot to do with “I will vote for this person” so much as “I feel good about this person.”

    Obama hasn’t been around major politics long enough to pick up a lot of baggage. Hillary carries tons of it, Gore carries quite a bit-and some of it similar to Hillary’s, and Edwards ran with John Kerry, and many conservative educated people see through his “two Americas” crap as the hokum it is.

    I think it is essentially that Obama seems to be a nice man, he definitely comes across as educated, and he doesn’t come across as smarmy-something Hillary and Edwards both seem to reek.

  12. Michael says:

    Can someone tell me when our society started to view education and intelligence as undesirable qualities?

    And it’s not just people like floyd and Triumph either, look at Gonzales and FL. congressman Bob Allen, they see “I’m not immoral, I’m just a complete idiot” as a good excuse, and reason enough to remain at their job.

  13. M1EK says:

    Obama’s been around just long enough to make a few decisions and take a few stands which all turned out to be correct. People who pay attention to foreign policy are more likely to be among the highly educated group – and he, unlike Hillary, didn’t fall for the Cheney spin on Iraq.

  14. Triumph says:

    Can someone tell me when our society started to view education and intelligence as undesirable qualities?

    This has a long history–but in more modern times, the assault against the intelligensia is a product of the Conservative backlash of the 70s and 80s.

    The problem with higher education–and intellectualism in general–is that it is based on an epistemology that seeks to question, probe, and explain. This is the foundation of the scientific method of inquiry that dominates social and natural sciences.

    Once you start from the premise of questioning and probing phenomena encountered in the world, you invariably come up against entrenched interests. You can look all the way back to Socrates, as an example.

    Since conservatism is fundamentally about “conserving” social conditions and structures of power, the sites where the questioning of these things take place need to be demonized.

    What conservatives have done quite nicely, is to tap into human insecurities by providing an antithetical narrative which offers solid answers about the world–as opposed to the intellectuals’ questioning. Hence, you see conservatives turning to such tropes as simpleminded nationalism and religion as counternarratives.

    Luckily, more people can easily digest “get the evildoers” than they can a complex, historically-accurate portrayal of foreign conditions that an intellectual might give.

    Intellectuals raise questions. Raising questions is not helpful. It causes us to think. Thus we need to provide an “easier” set of criteria for evaluating candidates. It is much better for conservatives when the electorate evaluates candidates on the basis of “who you would like to have a beer with” than on their actual policies.

    Frankly, most voters are unqualified to make reasoned judgements about complex issues like health care provision, foreign policy, etc… They are qualified to judge which candidate “seems nice” or “approachable,” etc…

  15. Bandit says:

    How is this unusual – he reflects all of the opinions of the ivory tower

  16. floyd says:

    Michael;
    I can see why they wouldn’t.[grinz]
    There is no incompatibility since one term [education]is used to measure learning, and the other, in the context of the article,refers to the acquisition of degrees.

  17. floyd says:

    “”Can someone tell me when our society started to view education and intelligence as undesirable qualities?””
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””” Michael;
    Your ability to infer exceeds any implication made. I said no such thing.

  18. floyd says:

    “”What conservatives have done quite nicely, is to tap into human insecurities by providing an antithetical narrative which offers solid answers about the world–as opposed to the intellectuals’ questioning. Hence, you see conservatives turning to such tropes as simpleminded nationalism and religion as counternarratives.””
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””” Triumph;
    It is easy to glean from your comment and definition that there are no conservative intellectuals.
    “Intellectuals” [read liberals]must then tap into their own insecurities by providing only an air of superiority and condescension in lieu of solid answers of which you claim they have none.[lol]

  19. Grewgills says:

    It is easy to glean from your comment and definition that there are no conservative intellectuals.

    Triumph’s spoof does have a grain of truth. Their are certainly intellectuals of all political stripes, but the Republicans of late have run using an anti-intellectual strategy.
    When was the last time you heard a conservative deride higher education, say surrounding the term with “”?
    When was the last time you heard a liberal do the same?
    When was the last time you heard a conservative call someone an ivory tower intellectual?
    When was the last time you heard a liberal do the same?
    This rhetoric should be set aside by all reasonable people.

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    To be the top in your field or hold a degree of some one else’s dreamed up dreams makes you educated in what?

    And most smart ass people don’t like other smart ass people.

    If true, it reinforces the observation that “higher education” teaches more about what to think than how to think!

    mix it in now with what they want to hear and you see Obama and his popularity, it’s not very hard to be a smart liberal, it’s hard to actually think.

    we gonna have to change a sucker born every minute to a plethora of liberals graduate every fall.