American Colleges Are True Liberal ‘Bubbles,’ Voting Data Confirms

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By Nahema Marchal | 1:39 pm, November 16, 2016

Amid all the talk of ‘filter bubbles’ ‘rigging’ the elections this week, a new study by the Chronicle of Higher Education has confirmed what many had long suspected: the real ‘echo chambers’ are not our news feed, but our college campuses.

American universities are true enclaves of liberalism, ideologically separated off from the rest of the country, voting data obtained by the Chronicle reveals.

For the study, the Chronicle compared voting data from the 2016 presidential election at the county level with data from the rest of the state in 49 states. In the 49 counties home to flagship universities—the best known higher education institutions in any given state — they found that only 9% of the electorate favored President-elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. And in counties that feature flagship universities Ms. Clinton’s percentage was 11 points higher than her statewide average.

Among the places that had the greatest disparity between county data and state data was Orange Country, home of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where Hillary Clinton received 74% of the county level vote while she only received 46.7% of votes in the state overall.

More surprisingly, the Chronicle found that while certain states have taken a rightward turn since the 2012 election, in these states, the counties that boasts top public universities swung exactly the opposite way. 

In Wisconsin, for instance, at the state level Trump won by a narrow margin, taking the purple state from the hands of Democrats (Barack Obama had won in 2012 with a margin of 6.7 points). Yet at the county level, voting attitudes couldn’t be more different. During this election cycle, Dane County, home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, voted overwhelmingly Democratic and gave Hillary Clinton even more votes than it had given Barack Obama four years earlier.

A similar trend played out in many other counties. But the most striking example is probably Prince George’s County in Maryland, which houses the University of Maryland. There, Donald Trump only received 8.3% of the vote compared to a whooping 89.3% in favor of Hillary Clinton. And while Clinton did win Maryland, she did so by a significantly smaller margin: 60.5%.

It’s noteworthy that a few of the counties included in the analysis did vote in favor of the Republican candidate, including those where the University of Arkansas, the University of Mississippi, the University of North Dakota, the University of Oklahoma at Norman, the University of Wyoming, and West Virginia University are located. But as the Chronicle points out, the percentage of voters in favor of Mr. Trump in these counties was lower than the statewide average.

Below is a table comparing state and county-level data on all 49 states.