The Strained Correlation Between School and Political Affiliation

In years past, the best way to predict an individual’s likely voting choices was to check income and church attendance. Though not exclusively, churchgoers often voted Republican. Academics and the working class generally voted Democrat. But no more, says a poll in the New Republic. According to Alan Wolfe, in the 2008 election, the single best way of forecasting voter’s choices was to look at the voter’s schooling history.

The poll demonstrated that people with a college degree voted for Barack Obama more frequently; those without a college degree were 17% more likely to vote for John McCain. The data did not denote if the type of education program mattered, ostensibly, all those in vocational programs, an online school and Harvard were all more likely to vote Obama - those this is something that could be studied further.

However, it does seem that the more education a voter has, the more likely they are to be Democrats, possibly because of the Democratic impulse to increase the budget for education and distrust of the Republican tendency towards tightening purse strings.

Furthermore, the more education a person has, the more likely they are to vote at all. As voter education increases, from middle school to advanced degrees, there is no point at which the more educated group votes less than the group before them. Female voters with a degree beyond a Bachelor’s degree holders are more likely to vote than someone without a high school degree, 77.30% compared to 23.10%.

When you put these two facts together, the people most likely to vote will be Democrats with at least a master’s degree. The people least likely to vote will be Republicans who dropped out during middle school.

Some news sources have started questioning what causes this gap in education versus political affiliation. Tom Ehrlich and Anne Colby at the Carnegie Foundation have speculated that there is a Democratic bias in undergraduate education that molds young Democrats over the course of four years of college, and is the reason for the heightened percentage of educated voters in the Democratic party.

Of course, any group of young idealists is going to be shaped by the conversations they have with their peers, and college is the perfect environment to breed discussion over social issues. If these conversations are taking place in the classroom, and are being guided by a professor, based on the above findings, political conversations will likely be led with a Democratic bias, whether intentionally or not. Combined with the heightened interest in social activism already present in a university setting, young students are indoctrinated into the Democratic party by proximity.

Legislators have proposed the Academic Bill of Rights as a means of offsetting liberal bias in education. This bill would endeavor to create a sense of diversity when it comes to political bias in the classroom by providing more points of view from other political parties, whether that’s within faculty ranks or in the student body. No one would argue that a variety of political perspectives is detrimental to a college setting, but some detractors of the bill have argued against enforced variety.

Research shows that education is the number one factor in determining political activity and affiliation of voters. Higher education goes hand in hand with the Democratic party, while lower levels of formal education are tied to the Republican party, which will make eliminating the bias difficult, but removing politics from school may be the best prescription for everyone.

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