College Educated Swing Back to GOP in 2012, Surveys Show

If President Barack Obama wins reelection Tuesday, he will likely do so without a majority of support from voters with a college degree -- a segment of the electorate that he won in 2008.

In 2008, Obama won college graduates by two percentage points, 50 to 48 percent, over John McCain. Two recent polls, though, show Obama losing that demographic by wide margins.

A Gallup poll of 2,551 likely voters conducted Thursday through Sunday shows Romney leading by 12 percentage points, 55 to 43 percent, among college graduates. A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,475 likely voters conducted Thursday through Saturday shows Romney leading that group by 10 percentage points, 52 to 42 percent.

Obama leads among those with a postgraduate degree, 57 to 39 percent, and those with a high school diploma or less, 48 to 47 percent, while Romney leads among those with some college but no degree, 50 to 46 percent, according to Gallup.

In 2008, college graduates were 28 percent of the electorate.

Obama's majority support from college graduates in 2008 was an anomaly for a Democrat. In elections before 2008, Democrats performed better among the low and high end of the education scale -- the less well educated (high school or less) and the very well educated (those with master's degrees and Ph.D's) -- while Republicans gathered more support from those in the middle -- those with some college and college graduates.

In 2000 and 2004, for instance, the Democratic presidential candidates won among those with no high school diploma and those with a post-graduate degree, President George W. Bush won those with some college and college graduates, and those with a high school diploma split about evenly between the parties.

In 2004, Bush won the college graduate vote by six percentage points, 52 to 46 percent, over Sen. John Kerry. When Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996, the only education group won by Republican Bob Dole was college graduates, 46 to 44 percent, with Ross Perot garnering eight percent.

Gallup's margin of error for likely voters is plus or minus two percentage points. The NBC/WSJ poll's margin of error is 2.2 percentage points for likely voters.

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