Nagle and Tracey are wrong about education and income, too
Sanders voters are about as likely as Biden voters to have little education, and significantly more likely to be poor.
Angela Nagle and Michael Tracey think that it was indulgence in the “radical liberal culture wars” that cost Sanders the election. In my last post, I noted a major problem with this argument. Here’s another. From their article:
This shift in emphasis also coincided with one of the starkest contrasts between Biden and Sanders voters in 2020—voter education levels. Polling shows that Biden had more than double Sanders’s support nationwide among voters with a high school education or less. While educated people stood to benefit in a very direct way from Bernie’s sweeping student debt forgiveness policy proposal, it was of little help to the two-thirds of Americans who do not have a college degree. Young, downwardly-mobile, and chronically indebted graduates often make the most assertive political activists and movement organizers, but for the general population, education still correlates with social class and higher income.
I was suspicious as soon as I saw this passage for a simple reason: of course Biden doubled Bernie’s support among voters with a high-school education or less. This is true of just about every demographic for the simple reason that Biden won much more of everyone than Sanders did.
To establish that the Sanders campaign was unusually alienating to voters with a high school education or less, you would need to demonstrate that they made up a smaller percentage of the Sanders coalition than of the Biden coalition. And here’s how that comparison looks:
To arrive these numbers, I adjusted the educational breakdown in Yougov’s preference polling by both the relative educational attainment of Democratic primary voters and Census data on voter educational attainment.
Since Nagle and Tracey also seem to be making a claim about “higher income”, I decided to apply this approach to the numbers on income as well:
Overall, these numbers are at odds with what Nagle and Tracey have tried to argue. When we look at educational attainment, the typical Sanders voter is about as likely as the typical Biden voter to have a high school education or less; the 1% difference is well within the margin of error. The major educational difference between coalitions is that while your typical Sanders voter is more likely to have only some college or a bachelor’s degree, your typical Biden voter is much more likely to have a postgrad degree as well. Meanwhile, Sanders voters are somewhat more likely to be poor than Biden voters, whereas Biden voters are much more likely to be making six figures.
Of course, one can always argue that Sanders should have done much better than he did with low-income voters and voters with little education. But the argument Nagle and Tracey are making about the “starkest contrasts between Biden and Sanders voters in 2020” just isn’t held up by the polling.