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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 6, 2023

Donald Trump and the Democratic Shift among College-Educated Suburban White Voters

  • Brian F. Schaffner EMAIL logo and Kaitlyn Gaus
From the journal The Forum


Recent election cycles have seen Democrats perform increasingly well in America’s suburbs. This shift is significant given that a plurality of Americans live in suburban areas and the vast majority of competitive House districts are located in these areas. In this paper, we use the Cooperative Election Study to document the shift among suburban voters and explore the reasons for this shift. Specifically, we consider whether the suburban Democratic shift is due to (1) changes in the demographic composition of suburban communities or (2) changes in how particular subsets of voters in suburban communities are voting. We find that most of the suburban Democratic shift is attributable to the changing voting patterns of white college-educated suburban voters. We conclude by presenting evidence that this shift to the left among suburban college-educated white voters appears to largely be a reaction to Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party’s brand.

Corresponding author: Brian F. Schaffner, Newhouse Professor, Tufts University, Medford, USA, E-mail:

Brian Schaffner is Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies in the Department of Political Science and Tisch College at Tufts University. He is also co-principal investigator of the Cooperative Election Study and the author of several books, including most recently Hometown Inequality: Race, Class, and Representation in American Local Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Katilyn Gaus is a research associate at Tufts University for the Cooperative Election Study. She graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Political Science in 2022.

This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Award # 2148907.


Table A1:

OLS model behind Figure 6 (standard errors in parentheses).

Non-college suburban white voters College suburban white voters
Intercept −0.14* (0.01) −0.16* (0.01)
Partisanship 0.70* (0.02) 0.72* (0.02)
Year = 2010 0.10* (0.01) 0.12* (0.02)
Year = 2012 0.14* (0.01) 0.15* (0.02)
Year = 2014 0.13* (0.01) 0.17* (0.02)
Year = 2016 0.13* (0.01) 0.15* (0.02)
Year = 2018 0.09* (0.01) 0.09* (0.02)
Year = 2020 0.08* (0.01) 0.07* (0.02)
Year = 2022 0.13* (0.01) 0.15* (0.02)
Presidential approval 0.38* (0.02) 0.42* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2010 −0.10* (0.02) −0.19* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2012 −0.16* (0.02) −0.20* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2014 −0.09* (0.02) −0.14* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2016 −0.16* (0.02) −0.21* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2018 −0.30* (0.03) −0.36* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2020 −0.35* (0.03) −0.37* (0.03)
Partisanship X 2022 −0.21* (0.02) −0.16* (0.02)
Approval X 2010 0.14* (0.03) 0.22* (0.03)
Approval X 2012 0.15* (0.03) 0.20* (0.03)
Approval X 2014 0.08* (0.03) 0.12* (0.03)
Approval X 2016 0.14* (0.03) 0.14* (0.03)
Approval X 2018 0.29* (0.03) 0.31* (0.03)
Approval X 2020 0.33* (0.03) 0.33* (0.03)
Approval X 2022 0.27* (0.02) 0.16* (0.03)
Observations 42,374 36,681
R2/R2 adjusted 0.704/0.703 0.763/0.763


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Published Online: 2023-02-06

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