At some point after the 2004 election, popular political demography took education level, rather than income level, as the primary determining factor in class. It is because of this definition that commenters, including Ruy Teixeira of The Emerging Democratic Majority fame, to claim that Bush has won the white working class by 23 points, despite being soundly defeated, 55%-44%, among voters making less than $50,000 a year. The major problem I have with this definition is that among the public at large, which mainly defines class by income level, statements that Bush won the white working class vote by wide margins conjures up images of Bush winning the majority of the vote among low-income white Americans. Clearly, as the exit poll data on income shows, the simply is not the case.
However, defining class by the type of job one posses, rather than by the amount of income one receives from that job, is actually more in line with traditional leftist and academic theory on the subject. The proletariat are not the proletariat because they are poor, but rather because they primarily earn money through wage-labor rather than through capital ownership. Certainly there is a tendency for the proletariat to be poor, or at least poorer than the bourgeois, but the primary difference between the classes is an issue of ownership, not an issue of income. Similarly, as someone who basically accepts Richard Florida's definition of the Creative Class, I think a contemporary understanding of class divisions in the United States is incomplete without taking into account not only ownership, but also the type of jobs individuals perform. Leaving aside the specifics of who can be defined as a "knowledge worker" and who cannot, the differences that I believe are the most salient are the ones based upon education level and schedule flexibility. The reason for this is because differences in these areas will inevitably result not only in different income levels, but also in different lifestyle types. And once people start living different than each other, it isn't long before they start developing different values and voting tendencies as well.
I bring this up because it now appears that the largest gap within the Democratic electorate is based upon education level. Looking over the detailed crosstabs from recent New Hampshire polls, the only state where pollsters seem to be regularly providing detailed demographic crosstabs, one sees well known patterns such as Clinton's disproportionate advantage among women, and Obama's disproportionate strength among Demo-leaning indies. However, by far the largest gaps documented in both the last UNH (PDF, p 21) and WMUR (PDF p. 12) polls is between those Democrats with a high school education or less, and those with a post-graduate education. In both of these New Hampshire polls, Barack Obama comes in at a meager 4th place, trailing not only Hillary Clinton by massive 54%-9% and 47%-11% margins, but also coming in behind both John Edwards and Bill Richardson. By way of contrast, among those with post-graduate degrees, Obama leads Clinton 31%-29% in WMUR and trails by a narrow 27%-24% margin in UNH. This is an average swing of 40 points between the two groups, much larger than anything crosstab, although it should be noted that income demonstrates the second largest gap between the candidates.,
I have always struggled to define the progressive creative class vote from exit polls, but looking at education crosstabs within Democratic primaries might be the closest one can come with public polling information. While progressive creative class types skew non-Christian, skew high income, and self-identified liberal, the largest connection between them will be that they have at least four-year degrees. In fact, education might be one of the largest class divides in this country, surpassing even most differences in income levels. It difficult to expect more detailed, psychographic information simply from exit polls, but determining how different classes in America are voting would not only provide more information on American elections, but on America itself.