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Pew study finds women, college graduates move toward Democratic Party

Chapel of the Cross offered early voting for the 2016 elections.

As the 2018 midterm elections approach, women and college graduates have moved toward the Democratic Party, the Pew Research Center reported in a study released March 20.

The study said 58 percent of all voters with at least a four-year college degree now identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, the highest share since 1992.

“Education has been associated with Democratic affiliation for a while now — but the relationship has become stronger in the last few election cycles,” UNC political science professor Timothy Ryan said in an email. 

He said one reason for this is that higher education tends to attract people with a more secular and multicultural worldview. 

“Once in higher education, universities probably serve (on average) to strengthen these affinities — for instance people are exposed to left-leaning professors,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the relationship with gender is less strong than some might think, referencing that President Donald Trump won white women by a margin of 52 to 43.

“That’s a smaller margin than for white men, but he still won in this group,” Ryan said.

He said it’s very difficult to say how the results of this study will unfold in the future because it depends on choices that parties have not made yet. 

“It seems like different factions of the Democratic Party want it to take on a more left-leaning or centrist stance," Ryan said. "Whatever side wins out, it will undoubtedly invoke a different response from the Republicans."

The study showed the gender gap in leaned party identification among millennials is wider than among older generations — 70 percent of millennial women affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, and four years ago only 56 percent of millennial women did.

“There was a significant increase in League of Women Voters membership nationally and in the state of North Carolina,” said Janet Hoy, co-president of the LWV of North Carolina.

She said the organization has grown 30 to 40 percent in the last 18 months.

Hoy said she believes there is an increase in women participating in politics in general, especially in the current political climate where there is an increase in women running for office in the state.

“I think that is just very positive," Hoy said. "We’re more than half of the population in (North Carolina)."

Hoy said the organization has noticed that in North Carolina many of the big issues— at least among new members — involve redistricting and gerrymandering and how to educate communities around the state on these issues.

“When women are engaged in organizations in general — whether that be political organizations or workplace organizations — there tends to be a better balance in terms of what employee issue and focus might be,” Hoy said. 

Hoy said the organization has seen a significant increase in the level of engagement and activism that many women have expressed in more recent years.

“Women are committed voters and are engaged in our communities."


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