Washington, D.C. — A new Center for American Progress analysis reveals that the educational divide between college and noncollege voters, particularly among white Americans, was the key variable shaping the 2016 election. With noncollege voters of all races left behind by a changing American economy, today CAP released a report proposing a “jobs guarantee” aimed at countering the effects of reduced bargaining power, technical change, globalization, and the Great Recession—more specifically, a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment. Such a program would increase employment and wages for those without a college degree while providing needed services that are currently out of reach for lower-income households and cash-strapped state and local governments.
In its report, CAP also proposes investments in a broadened class of infrastructure—to include roads and bridges but also to modernize schools for the 21st century and to build child care centers—proposals that will improve the accumulation of human capital as well as physical capital. The report, “Toward a Marshall Plan for America: Rebuilding Our Towns, Cities, and the Middle Class,” was released in tandem with CAP’s Ideas Conference, held today in Washington.
“A changing global and U.S. economy has meant that Americans who have not gone to college often face real and deep economic pain. Unfortunately, some on the right, such as Donald Trump, exploit this pain by painting a false picture of a zero-sum game where the gains of rising minority populations are perceived to come at the loss of shrinking white populations,” said Neera Tanden, president and CEO of CAP. “Progressives must care about the lost opportunities in Appalachia as much as in Detroit and must bring bold, new ideas to the table to ensure a good, stable middle-class life for all Americans—and this report is the first installment of that work.”
The analysis, conducted using CAP’s own combined file of county-level voting patterns and demographic data, found that significant white noncollege-educated populations shifted more heavily toward Trump in the 2016 elections. Many of these heavily white working-class counties with the biggest shifts toward Trump were concentrated in states such as Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all states that turned out to be pivotal to Trump’s Electoral College win. Noncollege educated voters in these areas have faced years of economic dislocation and wage pressures from rising globalization, outsourcing, and automation—factors that likely increased the appeal of Trump’s message of economic nationalism. CAP’s analysis notes that racial and cultural influences, as well as diminished turnout from base progressive groups such as young people and African-Americans, also played a critical role in shifting voting patterns in the 2016 elections.
In its report, CAP proposes the creation of a commission tasked with creating decent job opportunities and secure family situations for all working people. The commission would help design a national “Marshall Plan” to rebuild hard-hit communities through increased economic growth; more jobs with better wages; and rising opportunities and increased security for families. The proposed commission would be composed of national, regional, and local leaders, and will call upon the expertise of urban and rural leaders who represent labor, business, education, health, faith, community and economic development, and racial justice.
Click here to read “Toward a Marshall Plan for America: Rebuilding Our Towns, Cities, and the Middle Class” by Neera Tanden, Carmel Martin, Marc Jarsulic, Brendan Duke, Ben Olinsky, Melissa Boteach, John Halpin, Ruy Teixeira, and Rob Griffin.
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.6331.