A Recent Survey Commissioned by Intelligent.com Says 4 in 10 Voters Say a Candidate’s Education Does Not Influence Their Vote.
Article Written by Dave Reynolds
By now, most of us are familiar with the scandal surrounding U.S. Representative George Santos (R-NY) for faking his college credentials. The bitter truth is that he is hardly the first high-profile figure to do so and will certainly not be the last.
During the 2022 midterms, Republican candidate Herschel Walker was also criticized for lying about having a college degree, and even President Joe Biden once apologized for exaggerating his academic record.
Given that only 2 in 5 Americans themselves have a college degree, in February, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,500 registered U.S. voters to find out how important a candidate’s educational background actually is to them.
Key Survey Findings:
4 in 10 say a candidate’s education, or lack thereof, does not affect their vote
56% say where a candidate went to college is unimportant to them
80% say it is never acceptable for a candidate to lie about their education
42% of Voters Believe It is Not Important for a Candidate to Have a Degree
When asked how important, overall, it is to them that a candidate has an undergraduate degree, 42% of respondents said it is ‘somewhat’ (26%) or ‘very’ (16%) unimportant to them.
When respondents were asked about the office of the president, in particular, voters said it is only slightly more important for the president to have an undergraduate degree. Thirty-six percent of respondents said the president having a degree is ‘somewhat’ (23%) or ‘very’ (14%) unimportant.
4 in 10 Say a Candidate’s Education Does Not Influence Their Vote
When respondents were asked if they would be more likely to vote for someone with or without an undergraduate degree, 56% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate with a degree, 4% would be more likely to vote for someone without a degree, and 40% said it would not affect their decision either way.
Respondents who identified as Democrats were more likely to prefer a candidate with a college degree than respondents who identified as Republicans.
Sixty-one percent of Democratic respondents would be more likely to vote for someone with a degree, while 35% say it wouldn’t affect their decision.
Fifty-four percent of Republican respondents would prefer a candidate with a college degree while 43% say it would not affect their decision either way.
Of the total 4% of respondents who say they would actually prefer a candidate without a college degree, write-in responses included:
“I don’t think college makes one knowledgeable in everything, people can study politics in their home”
“It shows where they come from”
“Because that candidate would have a free, unaltered perspective on situations”
“They would know more about life and living and have a more realistic approach”
“I feel this candidate would have specific relatability to millennials because a lot of us were unable to go to college”
56% of Voters Say Where a Candidate Went to College is ‘Unimportant’
It would seem that embellishing your education credentials may not be serving too much of a purpose when it comes to voters, as more than half of respondents say they don’t really care which institution a candidate attended.
Thirty-five percent of respondents say the institution where a political candidate went to college is ‘somewhat’ unimportant while 21% say it is ‘very’ unimportant to them.
Of the 44% who say the college a candidate attended is ‘somewhat’ (28%) or ‘very’ (16%) important to them, write-in responses included sentiments such as:
“Because this indicates the candidate’s value”
“Just to make sure they are educated enough to properly do their job”
“Some institutions are better quality than others”
“It shows dedication and smarts”
And, succinctly, “Because some colleges suck”
Even Elite College Credentials Not Enough to Influence Most Voters
When respondents were asked if they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who went to an elite school vs. a non-elite school, 22% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who went to an elite college, 6% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who went to an elite college, and 72% said it would not influence them either way.
Similarly, when asked if they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who went to community college vs. a typical 4-year college, 13% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who went to community college, 19% would be more likely to vote for a candidate who attended a 4-year college, and 69% said it would not affect their decision either way.
Only 80% Say it is ‘Never’ Acceptable for a Candidate to Lie About Their Education
Not only do voters not seem to place too much emphasis on where a candidate went to school, but the majority strongly believe that lying about your education is unacceptable. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said it is ‘rarely’ (9%) or ‘never’ (80%) acceptable for political candidates to lie about their educational background.
89% of Voters Less Likely to Vote for a Candidate Who Lied About Their Education
When asked what they would do if it came out that a candidate had lied about their education, an overwhelming 89% of respondents said it would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.
Additionally, when asked if either a candidate lying about their education or a candidate not having a college degree would more negatively affect their opinion of the candidate, 91% of respondents said lying about their education would more negatively affect their opinion, while just 5% said not having a degree would more negatively affect their opinion and 4% said neither situation would affect their opinion.
This survey was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish from February 22-23, 2023. In total, 1,500 participants in the U.S. were surveyed.
All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were age 18 or above. Respondents were also screened to include only currently registered voters.
Nine percent of respondents identified their political leaning as ‘very conservative,’ 25% as ‘conservative,’ 31% as ‘independent,’ 24% as ‘liberal,’ 9% as ‘very liberal,’ and 2% as ‘other.’
The survey used a convenience sampling method, and to avoid bias from this component Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying.
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Dave Reynolds is a contributing writer for TheGenZPost.com and a full-time writer with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys sharing compelling stories and images about American society, culture, and life, and about the principles that underlie our nation’s foreign policy and engagement with the world.