Poll: Older, educated white voters shift away from Trump's Republican party

April 9 (Reuters) - Older, white, educated voters helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, they are trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll and a data analysis of competitive districts shows.

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2H39Tur)

The 12-point swing is one of the largest shifts in support toward Democrats that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has measured over the past two years. If that trend continues, Republicans will struggle to keep control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the November elections, potentially dooming President Donald Trump's legislative agenda.

“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”

Asked about the swing, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel cited robust fund-raising and said the party would field strong campaigns in battleground states. "We are not taking a single vote for granted,” she said in a statement.

RELATED: How every state voted in the 2016 election

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How every state voted in the 2016 election

Alabama

Donald Trump: 1,318,255 votes

Hillary Clinton: 729,547 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Alaska

Donald Trump: 163,387 votes

Hillary Clinton: 116,454 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Arkansas

Donald Trump: 684,872 votes

Hillary Clinton: 380,494 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Arizona

Donald Trump: 1,252,401 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,161,167 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Connecticut

Donald Trump: 673,315 votes

Hillary Clinton: 897,572 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

California

Donald Trump: 4,483,810 votes

Hillary Clinton: 8,753,788 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Alaska

Donald Trump: 163,387 votes

Hillary Clinton: 116,454 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Colorado

Donald Trump: 1,202,484 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,338,870 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Delaware

Donald Trump: 185,127 votes

Hillary Clinton: 235,603 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Florida

Donald Trump: 4,617,886 votes

Hillary Clinton: 4,504,975 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Georgia

Donald Trump: 2,089,104 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,877,963 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Hawaii

Donald Trump: 128,847 votes

Hillary Clinton: 266,891 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Iowa

Donald Trump: 800,983 votes

Hillary Clinton: 653,669 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Illinois

Donald Trump: 2,146,015 votes

Hillary Clinton: 3,090,729 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Idaho

Donald Trump: 409,055 votes

Hillary Clinton: 189,765 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Indiana

Donald Trump: 1,557,286 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,033,126 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Kansas

Donald Trump: 671,018 votes

Hillary Clinton: 427,005 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Kentucky

Donald Trump: 1,202,971 votes

Hillary Clinton: 628,854 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Louisiana

Donald Trump: 1,178,638 votes

Hillary Clinton: 780,154 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Maine

Donald Trump: 335,543 votes

Hillary Clinton: 357,735 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Massachusetts

Donald Trump: 1,090,893 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,995,196 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Michigan

Donald Trump: 2,279,543 votes

Hillary Clinton: 2,268,839 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Minnesota

Donald Trump: 1,323,232 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,367,825 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Mississippi

Donald Trump: 700,714 votes

Hillary Clinton: 485,131 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Missouri

Donald Trump: 1,594,511 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,071,068 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Montana

Donald Trump: 279,240 votes

Hillary Clinton: 177,709 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Nebraska

Donald Trump: 495,961 votes

Hillary Clinton: 284,494 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Nevada

Donald Trump: 512,058 votes

Hillary Clinton: 539,260 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

New Hampshire

Donald Trump: 345,790 votes

Hillary Clinton: 348,526 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

New Jersey

Donald Trump: 1,601,933 votes

Hillary Clinton: 2,148,278 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

New Mexico

Donald Trump: 319,667 votes

Hillary Clinton: 385,234 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

New York

Donald Trump: 2,819,534 votes

Hillary Clinton: 4,556,124 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

North Dakota

Donald Trump: 216,794 votes

Hillary Clinton: 93,758 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Ohio

Donald Trump: 2,841,005 votes

Hillary Clinton: 2,394,164 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Oklahoma

Donald Trump: 949,136 votes

Hillary Clinton: 420,375 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Oregon

Donald Trump: 782,403 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,002,106 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Pennsylvania

Donald Trump: 2,970,733 votes

Hillary Clinton: 2,926,441 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Rhode Island

Donald Trump: 180,543 votes

Hillary Clinton: 252,525 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

South Carolina

Donald Trump: 1,155,389 votes

Hillary Clinton: 855,373 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

South Dakota

Donald Trump: 227,721 votes

Hillary Clinton: 117,458 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Tennessee

Donald Trump: 1,522,925 votes

Hillary Clinton: 870,695 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Texas

Donald Trump: 4,685,047 votes

Hillary Clinton: 3,877,865 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Utah

Donald Trump: 515,231 votes

Hillary Clinton: 310,676 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Vermont

Donald Trump: 95,259 votes

Hillary Clinton: 178,573 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Virginia

Donald Trump: 1,769,443 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,981,473 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Washington

Donald Trump: 1,221,747 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,742,718 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

West Virginia

Donald Trump: 489,371 votes

Hillary Clinton: 188,794 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Wisconsin

Donald Trump: 1,405,284 votes

Hillary Clinton: 1,382,536 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

Wyoming

Donald Trump: 174,419 votes

Hillary Clinton: 55,973 votes

Data courtesy of the New York Times

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John Camm has been a Republican since the Nixon Administration, but the 63-year-old Tucson accountant says he will likely support a Democrat for Congress in November. He is splitting with his party over access to health insurance as well as its recent overhaul of the nation's income tax system. He also supports gun control measures that the party has rejected.

"I'm a moderate Republican, and yet my party has run away from that," Camm said. "So give me a moderate Democrat."

Camm is not alone in his worries about healthcare. The number of educated older adults choosing "healthcare" in the Reuters/Ipsos poll as their top issue nearly tripled over the past two years, from 8 percent to 21 percent. The poll did not ask respondents precisely what their concerns about healthcare were.

Typically though, voters' concerns are varied. Some fear the repealing of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature effort to offer subsidized health insurance to millions of Americans and expand healthcare to the poor. Others cite high prescription drug costs and the high cost of healthcare in general.

GRAY VOTE MAGNIFIED

The potential impact of any swing to Democrats is magnified given that older, educated adults are reliable voters. They also make up a sizeable portion of the voting population in many districts where elections are close.

How they vote could decide elections in as many as 26 competitive congressional districts where Democrats have a shot at winning a seat. A Reuters analysis of U.S. Census data shows highly educated older voters make up about 5-10 percent of the population in those areas. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to win control of the House of Representatives.

More broadly, older white Americans, regardless of their level of education, are still more likely to vote for Republicans than Democrats, but the Republican advantage with this group has been trimmed by about 5 percentage points when comparing the first quarter of 2018 with the first quarter of 2016.

DISPROPORTIONATE POWER

Older, educated voters have even more clout in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, where John Camm lives.

They make up about 10 percent of the population there, the analysis shows. Adjacent to the University of Arizona Tucson campus and including some of Arizona's few liberal pockets, it is Arizona's most competitive district, said Paul Bentz, an Arizona strategist and pollster who has worked on numerous Republican campaigns.

Older voters in the 2nd district - both with and without college degrees - were 40 percent of voters in the 2016 election that kept Congress in Republican hands and brought Trump to power, Arizona voter data reviewed by Reuters shows.

Bentz said the shift toward Democrats in the Tucson area could be enough to determine the outcome, but he cautioned against reading too much into the increased concern about healthcare. He said Republicans could still win voters with arguments focusing on immigration and support for the military.

Older, educated voters are also nearly 10 percent of the adult population in northern New Jersey's hotly contested 11th Congressional District, three hotly contested Southern California districts, and highly competitive seats in Illinois, Texas and Virginia's 10th.

RAISING ANXIETY

Nationally, Democrats plan to campaign strongly for older voters, focusing on issues such as taxes, healthcare and the economy as campaigns heat up later this year, party strategists said. Republicans, meanwhile, are touting the benefits of their tax cuts and the improved economy.

In an ad that began rolling out last week in Indiana, Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic Party fundraising group, highlights increases to the federal deficit caused by Republican tax cuts. "Now there's a plan to cut Medicare to pay for it," the ad says, a line designed to raise older Americans' anxiety about the government healthcare program for over 65s.

RELATED: Rising political stars to watch in 2018

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Rising political stars to watch in 2018
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Rising political stars to watch in 2018

Randy Bryce (D)

Bryce made waves earlier this year when he announced he would run against House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 2018 midterm elections. Bryce, a Democrat, is a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor and union ironworker.

Rep. Scott Taylor, (R-VA)

A former Navy SEAL, Taylor has represented Virginia's 2nd District since he was elected in 2016. He has branded himself as a Republican lawmaker who is unafraid to speak out against President Trump and members of his own party -- recently calling out Roy Moore for allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rep. Seth Moulton, (D-MA)

39-year-old Seth Moulton has increasingly emerged as a prominent House member and one to watch within the Democratic party. He served four tours of duty in Iraq and notably serves as the. Recently, he has advocated for "a new generation" of Democratic leadership.

Rep. Chris Collins, (R-NY)

Collins was elected to represent New York's 27th district on Capitol Hill in 2012, and has since positioned himself as a vocal right-wing defender within the Republican party. He also came out as one of President Trump's most vocal supporters leading up to an after the 2016 election.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)

Krishnamoorthi was elected in 2016 -- making him one of the more freshman lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Still, the former lawyer with a past of aiding the Obama administration has played an integral role this year in congressional investigations into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia. As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he has taken many opportunities to speak critically of the clearance aides like Jared Kushner have -- and has firmly positioned himself as a staunch opponent of GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK)

As one of 21 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Murkowski has positioned herself as a more moderate leader within the Republican party. Murkowski refused to toe the party line on an attempted Obamacare repeal earlier this year, and has since raised skepticism over specific elements of the GOP tax bill and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-Fla.)

Crist is one of the more interesting players currently positioned in the political landscape. Once a Republican, Crist served as both attorney general and governor of Florida -- but then switched to a member of the Independent and eventually Democratic party. In his current House role representing Florida's 13th congressional district, Crist has emerged as a Democrat unafraid to take a middle-ground approach in his policy stances.

Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AR)

As the youngest U.S. senator, Cotton's political future currently looks very bright. As one of the few Capitol Hill lawmakers that has yet to have a public feud -- on Twitter or otherwise -- with President Trump, Cotton was recently on the shortlist to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director if Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV)

Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

Governor-elect Ralph Northam (D-VA)

Northam was elected governor of Virginia in the series of "anti-Trump" Election Day victories Democrats celebrated in Nov. 2017. Northam's victory over Ed Gillespie signaled a potential shift in the oft-fraught over Virginia battleground state -- and Northam's gubernatorial tenure will be one to eye in the context of midterms and the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY)

Many who watch politics closely have noted Gillibrand as one to watch since she was appointed to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat in 2009, and then elected in 2012. Early in her Senate career, Gillibrand used her position as a member of the Committee on Armed Services to chalk up a major legislative win by championing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Gillibrand has also recently spoken out against sexual harassment allegations stemming from both Democratic and Republican offices -- calling on both Sen. Al Franken and President Trump to resign.

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Priorities spokesman Josh Schwerin said it plans to spend $50 million on such ads in several states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

(To read about how healthcare anxieties are looming large in a key Kentucky House race, click here)

Voters between the ages of 60 and 65 are particularly worried about healthcare, said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University in New Jersey, because they are paying ever higher private health insurance premiums and are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Kenneth Johnston, 82 and a registered Republican who was shopping with his wife on a recent day at a Sprouts Farmers Market store in Green Valley, south of Tucson, said he is unhappy with his party and has mixed feelings about Trump.

But he hasn't yet decided how he's going to vote. "I'm worried about healthcare, but sometimes I just worry about everything," he said. "I'm old." --The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll provides a snapshot of public opinion by surveying more than 65,000 adults during the first three months of 2016 and 2018, including more than 15,000 people over the age of 60.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein and Chris Kahn. Additional reporting by Grant Smith in New York, Howard Schneider in Washington, and Paul Ingram and Joe Ferguson in Tucson, Arizona. Editing by Damon Darlin and Ross Colvin)

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