Yet Trump faces a pair of disabling personal doubts among these white-collar whites. The first doubt blocking his path to the White House is the widespread perception that he’s racially divisive. In this week’s ABC/Washington Post poll, 60 percent of college-educated whites say he’s biased against women and minorities; in the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, college-whites give Clinton roughly 20-point advantages on unifying the country and handling issues relating to racial minorities and the police.
Likely even more damaging are these voters’ pervasive doubts about Trump’s basic fitness to execute the job. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, just 24 percent of college whites describe Trump as knowledgeable and experienced—compared with 59 percent for Clinton. Just 14 percent say he has the right temperament—compared with 52 percent for Clinton. In that survey, college-educated whites give her a 15-point advantage as commander-in-chief and a 20-point edge for handling a crisis.
In the ABC/Washington Post poll, 59 percent of college whites say he is not qualified to serve as president—almost exactly the same percentage that says Clinton is qualified. In all, 72 percent of college-educated whites in that poll said the idea of Trump as president made them “anxious.”
Adding to Trump’s challenge: In polls, college-educated whites have been much less likely than their non-college counterparts to support several of his signature proposals, including his evolving ban on Muslim immigration and his pledge to deport all undocumented immigrants.
Trump’s problems are especially pronounced among white women with college degrees. These women have leaned Democratic in most elections since 1988. (Romney actually beat Obama among them by six percentage points according to exit polls.) But Clinton’s advantage in the most recent surveys dwarf those of previous nominees: While Al Gore’s eight-point lead in 2000 was the biggest Democratic edge among college-educated white women in recent campaigns, Clinton leads with them by 12 points in the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, 15 points in Marist/McClatchy, 19 points in ABC/Washington Post, and fully 30 points in the Monmouth poll. Three of those polls show Trump leading among white men with at least a four-year degree but, in each case, by margins of 11 points or fewer. That’s considerably less than the Republican advantage in any election since 1980, except 1992 and 2008. (The Marist/McClatchy poll put Clinton ahead with those men.)
Those college-educated men and women may be the voters most influenced by the unsparing condemnation of Trump from a list of former GOP national-security luminaries—one that included two former secretaries of homeland security (Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge), a former CIA director (Michael Hayden), a former director of national intelligence and deputy secretary of state (John Negroponte), a former deputy defense secretary (William Howard Taft IV), two U.S. trade representatives (Carla Hills and Robert Zoellick), virtually all of the top advisers to Condoleezza Rice when she was secretary of state, and the former top foreign-policy adviser to Senator and former GOP presidential nominee John McCain (Richard Fontaine).