Beneath a Close Election Contest Lie Deep Rifts Among Groups

Gary Langer et al., ABC News, November 3, 2016

Profound rifts among groups lie beneath the close presidential contest, underscoring the country’s fundamental political divisions not only by gender, education, race and ethnicity but also by factors ranging from religious belief to residential area.

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There’s a 22 point gender gap in the contest, nearly double the norm in elections since 1976. And that pales compared with other gaps–44 points between college- and non-college-educated whites, 65 points between whites and nonwhites, 66 points between rural and urban residents and 97 points between white evangelicals and likely voters who don’t profess a particular religion.

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Trump is doing less well with Republicans and GOP leaners who wanted someone else to win the nomination; he has 75 percent support in this group, with 15 percent going to Clinton, 7 percent to Johnson or Stein. Two factors mitigate the damage: leaning Republicans have grown more apt to say they supported Trump in the first place (47 percent, up from 40 percent in August), and there’s no slippage evident in turnout among leaning Republicans who preferred someone else for the nomination.

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Differences among groups abound, with one of the largest between evangelical white Protestants–a core Republican constituency–and those who profess no religion. The former back Trump by 77 to 19 percent; the latter, Clinton by 64 to 25 percent. The groups are identical in size, each making up 17 percent of likely voters. The gap between them is typical.

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The racial gap, while wide, is narrower than typical. Whites support Trump by 53 to 39 percent; nonwhites favor Clinton, 72 to 21 percent. But that 65 point divide is a bit smaller than the average in exit polls since 1976, 73 points, as well as 26 points smaller than the record racial gap, 91 points, in 1984. That’s mostly because of lower support for Clinton among nonwhites who are not black or Hispanic; 48 percent back her, versus 66 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.

In a particularly prominent result in this election, gender and education continue to spell broad differences among whites. College-educated white women, consistently strong for Clinton all year, now back her by 59 to 32 percent. Non-college-educated white men, steadily one of Trump’s best groups, support him 64 to 26 percent.

White men with a college degree continue to divide closely, making them a battleground group. Non-college-educated white women–the largest of these groups, at 24 percent of likely voters–have wavered in their support, generally for Trump but by varying margins. Lately, they look more settled on Trump, now by 61 to 33 percent.

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