Like North Carolina, Georgia has long been a state that Democrats have been waiting to turn blue. As the population becomes more urban and diverse, the voters tend to prefer progressive policies to conservatives ones. But the wait has been long.
Then, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) poll came out in November showing Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by five points. Trump’s Super PAC listed the state as one of its top priorities. Democrats called it a “critical battleground.” With two Senate seats up and 16 electoral votes, Georgia seems ready for ad spending like we’ve seen in North Carolina since Obama put us in play back in 2008.
In January, AJC released its poll using different methodology. Suddenly, the state didn’t look nearly as appealing. More than 50% of Georgia voters approve of the way Trump is handling his job. His favorability rating is far better than any Democrat on the ballot. The Republican Party has significantly better ratings than the Democrats.
So what happened between November and January? Nothing in Georgia but the pollster started weighting for education instead of just race, age and sex. A larger portion of non-college educated voters in the polling sample shifted the Georgia numbers to what is likely a more realistic political picture of the state. If the numbers hold throughout the year, Democrats still have a ways to go before Georgia becomes a truly competitive state.
The new polling tells a different story, too. The GOP is increasingly dominated by non-college educated voters. College-educated voters, particularly women, have shifted rapidly to the Democratic Party. That doesn’t mean that one party is smarter than the other, but it does mean that one party appeals to people with better critical thinking skills and one doesn’t.
As someone who resisted a college education for a long time, I can say that my formal education taught me to be more discerning when consuming information. I learned to be skeptical and to look for bias. Today’s Republican base lacks those skills.
Some in the GOP are willfully ignorant. The GOP Senators who are hearing the evidence against Donald Trump for the first time from Adam Schiff put their collective heads in the sand and ignored the facts until they were forced upon them. But the rank-and-file Trump supporters who get their news exclusively from Fox News, Breitbart and the likes of Rush Limbaugh, or worse, second-hand from people who do, are being led, not informed. If they had been taught better critical thinking skills, they might not be voting against their self-interests and be less distracted by stories about immigrant caravans.
Not everyone needs a college degree, but in this age of information-overload everyone does need to have critical thinking skills that, to date, have been taught more in colleges and universities than high schools or community colleges. People get fooled by ads on social media because they don’t have the tools to determine what’s true and what’s not. They believe the likes of Hannity because he appeals to their biases, not their intellect. Maybe one reason Republicans oppose properly funding public education is that they need their base to stay easily deceived.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >