Jul. 2nd, 2013
Last Tuesday’s special Senate election for John Kerry’s old Senate seat went mostly unnoticed as it was buried by larger political stories during the week. In the end, the Democrat Ed Markey won by a comfortable but unremarkable 10-point margin over Republican Gabriel Gomez 55-45. In a state as blue as Massachusetts, those numbers are hardly anything to crow about. However, upon closer inspection, there is one data point that stands out. In the city of Cambridge, home to both Harvard University and M.I.T, Ed Markey beat Gomez 89-11 percent. That data point stands as a testament to how toxic the Republican Party has become for high information voters.
With their disdain for intellectuals, their flat refusal to acknowledge global warming, their denial of evolution and their inability to comprehend that rape can result in pregnancy, the modern, heavily tea-stained version of the Republican Party is simply unpalatable to the vast majority of scientists, professors and other educated professionals. As GOP candidates continue to pander to aging white religious fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists, they undermine their own hopes for reclaiming the White House in 2016.
While much attention has been paid to the demographic changes that may doom the GOP as the country becomes increasingly non-white, that is only part of the Republican’s electoral problem. The other problem they face is that they have alienated highly educated voters of all races, to the point that their electoral prospects have grown dim even if they do somehow succeed in suppressing a large number of minority voters and even if they do manage to stem the flow of immigration. Tuesday’s results in Cambridge starkly illustrate the continuing erosion of support for the GOP among high information voters.
To be fair, voters in the shadow of Harvard and M.I.T have never been strong supporters of the Republican Party. However, Tuesday’s 89-11 drubbing stands as a tremendous testament to how bad things have become for the Republicans. In 2002, When Mitt Romney ran for Governor, he pulled 22 percent of the vote in Cambridge. While that may seem pretty dismal, it is still double the percentage Gabriel Gomez managed to receive on Tuesday. In the 2010 and 2012 Senate races, Scott Brown only pulled 15 percent of the city’s vote each time, but Gomez’s total plummeted even well below those pathetic numbers.
To understand how spectacular the Republican collapse has been among high information voters, not just in Cambridge, but nationally, a look at exit polls reveals the steady decline of GOP strength among highly educated voters. In 1988, George H.W. Bush trounced Michael Dukakis among voters with a Bachelor’s degree 62-37. He also carried voters with a post-graduate degree 50-48. In 2012, Barack Obama carried college-educated voters, narrowly losing those with only a bachelor’s degree but carrying post-graduate voters by a decisive margin of 55-42.
In the swing states where votes were most crucial, the results were even more lopsided. In New Hampshire Obama carried the post-graduate vote 61-37, In Wisconsin 62-37 and in Colorado 60-38. Obama carried Virginia twice, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the Old Dominion state since 1964. He did so largely on the strength of post-graduate voters in Northern Virginia. In 2012, 24 percent of the voters who turned out in Virginia had post-graduate degrees. They delivered for Obama by a 57-42 margin offsetting his losses among less educated voters.
Democratic fortunes in some swing states have relied heavily on the post-graduate shift away from the GOP. For example, George W. Bush carried Nevada and Florida in both 2000 and 2004, but both states shifted parties and went with Obama in both 2008 and 2012. While immigration and changing demographics are often given as the reason for this transformation, the party switch can just as easily be attributed to the defection of high information voters away from the GOP.
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