And shifts in the cultural conversation about women could affect how female voters perceive the candidates. Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist, called this change in public discussion about women “the Bill Cosby effect” and the “Roger Ailes and Fox [News] effect,” pointing to “things that would not have been talked about, things that would not have been covered” had they happened in previous years. She referenced the recently released Access Hollywood tape of Trump, wherein the Republican nominee bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia. “I think it was a bigger cultural phenomenon,” Lake said, referring to increased attention to issues like sexual harassment. But “Trump has been more catalytic to the conversation” than Clinton’s potential presidency.
Trump has consistently found himself defending his own behavior toward women. And according to recent polling, his actions—alleged or otherwise—have affected voters’ perceptions of him. In a Pew Research Center report released late last week, 43 percent of women said that he had “no respect at all” for women, compared with 29 percent of men. Of women who are supporting Clinton, more than 90 percent say Trump has little or no respect for women.
Ahead of the election, women on the whole seemed to be pro-Clinton. But it’s not quite so simple as that. For one, the numbers look different once women are divided by race and education level. According to SurveyMonkey polling from late October, white women without a college degree support Trump by a margin of 16 percent—38 percent for Clinton vs. 54 percent for Trump. The final NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Sunday gave Trump an even larger 24-percentage-point lead among those blue-collar, white women.
Among white women with college degrees, on the other hand, the SurveyMonkey data found support for Clinton by a margin of 28 percent—61 percent Clinton to 33 percent Trump—while the NBC News/WSJ poll put her lead at 21 percentage points. No matter which poll is most accurate, she seems guaranteed to top the largest Democratic advantage ever with these white-collar white women: Al Gore’s eight-point lead in 2000.
Her support among women of color was even more pronounced. In the SurveyMonkey polling, non-white women with college degrees support Clinton by a margin of 58 percent—76 percent vs. 18 percent—and non-white women without a college education support Clinton over Trump at a margin of 68 percent—81 percent vs. 13 percent.
The share of the white population without four-year degrees has been steadily dropping since 1980, when white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate. In 2012, according to exit polls, they made up just 36 percent. (Census data puts the non-college-educated white share higher, but also shows it steadily declining, at a rate of about three percentage points every four years.) This bloc, including women, tends to support Trump. But the share of white, college-educated, and minority voters has grown in that same time span. The share of white voters with college degrees increased from 26 percent to 36 percent of the electorate, and the minority share of the electorate has increased from 9 percent to over a quarter of the electorate. Those shares of the population—the growing ones—support Clinton.