I had been incorrectly thinking of the white working class as some small interest group, but — depending upon how you define it — it’s actually quite large. Check out the Census Bureau’s data on population sizes by educational attainment, which I’ve turned into a shared read-only spreadsheet.
(Note, by the way, that when I tried to import that Census XLSX file into Google Docs, Google mangled it and dropped the age breakdown in the leftmost column. Apple’s spreadsheet ingested it properly.)
If we define the white working class as white adults with less than a bachelor’s degree, there are 132.8 million such people. In a nation of 321 million people, that’s around 40% of the population. Given that 77.1% of the population is 18 years old or older, that means there are around 247 million adults. So of those 247 million adults, the majority are non-college-educated whites.
(Few of my friends lack a college degree. Another example of the bubble I’m in.)
It’s worth noting that around 3/4 of all voters in 2012 were non-Hispanic whites. And around 63% of all voters in 2012 did not have a bachelor’s or advanced degree (source: Census Bureau). I’ve not found cross-tabs that count voters by race and educational attainment, but then I haven’t looked very hard.
I have a hunch that elite discourse — being framed by journalists who’ve mostly been educated at elite universities — has convinced many of us that the white working class are a minority whose magnitude approximates that of many other minorities. My rough sense of the magnitudes here convinces me that, in fact, they’re a majority in whatever way you care to slice it.
I’m making no political point here. For one thing, whites are doing really well, relative to other races. And to be crystal-clear about it: nothing Donald Trump has said suggests that he would help the demographic that is purportedly his base. But it’s striking how large that base is.