Chart: Democrats can thank more educated voters for swinging Michigan seats

Education mattered, at least in 2018 elections.

In the November midterms, Democrats nationwide swung numerous districts as they forged a majority in Congress, picking up 40 seats (a few races are still undecided).

In Michigan and much of the Midwest, education level was a predictor of Democratic success. The two seats that Democrats flipped in Michigan have, by far, the most educated adults.

In 26 seats in the Midwest where more than 35 percent of adults have a college degree, Democrats won 20 seats in November, up from 10 just two years before, according to Nate Silver, founder of the news website FiveThirtyEight. That includes both Michigan congressional districts that flipped.

In the 11th District, comprised of parts of Oakland and Wayne counties, nearly half of all adults have a college degree and Democrat Haley Stevens won by nearly 7 points, flipping the seat previously held by retiring Republican David Trott (she beat Republican nominee Lena Epstein).

In the 8th District, comprising Ingham, Livingston and parts of Oakland counties, Democrat Elissa Slotkin beat incumbent Republican Mike Bishop, by 4 points.

Democratic pollster Mark Grebner has said the results underscore a trend that’s seen less educated white voters become more Republican, while educated ones trend Democratic.

Indeed, if you look at the graphic below, you’ll see that six of the seven congressional seats that Republicans won in Michigan were in districts where a smaller percentage of adults have a college degree compared with the statewide percent (29.1). The 10th Congressional District, comprising northern Macomb County and much of the Thumb, is at 23.6 percent; and the 7th Congressional, including Monroe County and stretching west and north to Eaton County, is at 24.1 percent.


Republican U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s West Michigan 3rd Congressional District (32.6 percent) is the only GOP-held seat with a higher percentage than the state average.

Democrats, on the other hand, are on both sides of the average. The two districts with the lowest percentages went for Democrats –  the 5th District from Flint to the western Lake Huron shore that is represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (19.8 percent) and the 13th District in Detroit and western Wayne County, which elected Rashida Tlaib (16.1 percent).

The chart also includes the median household income for the districts and the size of the winner’s victory margin.

Higher income districts are to the top of the chart, lower to the bottom. The larger the bubble, the bigger the victory margin (Tlaib, for instance, won by 73 points compared with Stevens’ 6.6 point victory).

Districts farther to the right have higher levels of education and those to the left have fewer adults with a college degree.

But things can change quickly.

Two years ago, nine of the 14 seats were held by Republicans – and the two seats with the most educated voters backed GOP candidates.

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