Hispanic voters in America are “literally cascading into the Republican Party,” Donald Trump said last week, according to Fox News. Speaking on a call with Turning Point USA, a group that advocates for conservative values on American educational campuses, the former U.S. president also claimed the Republicans were “becoming the party of the worker and the party of just about everybody, frankly.” For all his characteristic hyperbole, Trump was alluding to something real: As The New York Times reports, based on the latest round of the regular survey it conducts in collaboration with Siena College, “Republicans appear to be making new inroads among nonwhite and working-class voters—perhaps especially Hispanic voters.” In fact, for the first time in the survey series, “Democrats had a larger share of support among white college graduates than among nonwhite voters.”

It’s an especially remarkable finding, given that the Democratic Party had “won more than 70 percent of nonwhite voters while losing among white college graduates” in congressional elections just six years ago. The new data has reinforced an emerging view among political analysts at mainstream U.S. media outlets that—despite the traditionally common sense that the Republicans disproportionately represent the white and the wealthy, while the Democrats represent the non-white and the non-wealthy—the Republican Party is now becoming a “multi-racial, working-class” coalition. Is that really what’s happening?

Matt Grossmann is a professor of political science, and the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, at Michigan State University. Grossmann thinks it’s true that the polarization of America’s white voters along educational lines is clear and likely to continue—and could plausibly spread to non-white voters, particularly Hispanics, over time. But the broader picture he sees is more complicated than the narrative of the Republican Party becoming a “multi-racial, working-class” coalition suggests. After all, the vast majority of non-whites still aren’t voting for Republican candidates, and some of the non–college-educated whites who are voting for them have high incomes, complicating the question of their “class.” Neither is there clear evidence on whether non-whites without college degrees are genuinely moving to the right. But there is evidence, Grossmann says, that more and more people across the American political spectrum are developing their party identities in relation to how they perceive the cultural influence of elite institutions—universities, the media, large corporations—that they associate with progressive values and progressive politics.

Graham Vyse: How do you see support for America’s two political parties shifting along educational lines?

Matt Grossmann: If you’re a white, college-educated voter in America today—or you live somewhere in the U.S. where you’re surrounded by white, college-educated voters—you’re likely to be trending toward the Democratic Party. The opposite’s true of white voters without college degrees. These trends predate Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in 2016, but he certainly accelerated them. It used to be that white, college-educated voters were more likely to vote Republican.

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