Survey: Non-college whites had affinity for GOP before Trump

In fact, white college nongraduates have preferred the GOP to the Democratic Party for most of the past two decades, with at least a slight Republican advantage in affiliation for 15 of the past 20 years. The exceptions were in 1999, the year of the Republican-led Senate trial attempting to remove President Bill Clinton from office, and 2006 through 2009, troubled years for the U.S. related to the Iraq War and the Great Recession, mostly under Republican President George W. Bush. By 2010, after President Barack Obama’s honeymoon was over, the Affordable Care Act became law and the Tea Party movement emerged as a political force, non-college whites’ loyalties to the GOP were re-established, and they have become even stronger than before.

Thus, it appears Trump has capitalized on white college nongraduates’ existing preferences for the GOP more so than creating them. Still, the 25-percentage-point edge in non-college whites’ preferences for the Republican Party (59%) over the Democratic Party (34%) thus far in 2019 is the largest in the past two decades, and is up from a 20-point gap in 2014.