More specifically, Moore’s ability to survive the allegations of sexually pursuing young girls, which have rocked his campaign, will likely turn on whether he can maintain his pre-scandal advantage among white women without a college education — even as their college-educated counterparts have moved toward Democrat Doug Jones in much bigger numbers than usual for deeply conservative Alabama, according to public and private polling in the race.
With that contrast, the Alabama race is illuminating one of the least understood political trends of the Donald Trump era. Many commentators have warned that Republicans face a systemic problem with female voters under Trump — and could see that difficulty deepen if Moore wins and is seated in the Senate. But that conclusion is far too sweeping. Rather than a monolithic response, the Trump era instead is widening the divide between the political preferences of white-collarand blue-collar white women.
But in the Trump era, the class divide looks more powerful than the gender divide, especially among whites. In the 2016 presidential race, Trump ran much better among white women without a college education than those with an advanced degree. In fact, the gap between the two groups was by far the widest recorded in exit polls since at least the presidential race of 1980.
But with blue-collar white men remaining firmly behind Trump and the GOP, the Democrats won’t flip many working-class and non-urban districts unless they can convert more working-class white women. Without at least some breakthroughs in such blue-collar districts, Democrats will face a very narrow pathway toward recapturing the House, which has been under Republican control since 2011. “You’ve got to reach those non-Democratic women,” says Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster who has extensively researched the largely blue-collar “Walmart moms.”
The widening class gap among white women tracked a parallel divergence among white men. Trump ran 18 points better among white men without a college degree than with those holding advanced education. Before Trump, no Republican since 1980 had run more than six points better among non- than college-educated white men.