The Demographics Behind The Campaign

June 15, 2012, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 6/9/2012) While the societal sources of support for Obama and Romney are complex, they can be summarized as the product of the relationship between three major demographic factors — race, gender, and education.

We begin with what continues to be by far the largest racial group within the American electorate—Non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic whites constitute the majority of registered voters within both the Obama and Romney coalitions, though they play a much larger role within the Romney coalition. 86% of Romney supporters are non-Hispanic whites, as opposed to only 64% of Obama supporters.

As a whole, non-Hispanic whites are fairly solidly in the Romney camp. Pooled results from the last four weeks of the Economist/YouGov poll show that 49% of them favor Romney and 39% favor Obama. However, major differences exist across gender and education categories among whites. White men, for example, favor Romney over Obama by 17%. But among white women, that lead shrinks to just 3%.

Even more impressive differences exist across whites of different educational categories. Whites with no more than a high school diploma favor Mitt Romney by 17%. Among whites with some college education but no four-year degree, Romney is ahead of Obama by 9%. But among college-educated whites, Romney is only ahead of Obama by 2%.

As is well-known, Hispanics/Latinos are a rapidly-growing part of the American population and American electorate as well. Both parties recognize the importance of cultivating or consolidating the Hispanic vote in this election as well as in the future. As a whole, Hispanic Americans currently favor Obama substantially. The President enjoys an 17-point lead over Romney among this segment of the electorate.

Interestingly, however, the same electoral divisions among whites that were documented above also appear to exist among Hispanics. For example, Hispanic men are more likely to be Romney supporters than are Hispanic women and well-educated Hispanics are more likely to be Obama supporters than less well-educated Hispanics. Nevertheless, in each of these cases, the various Hispanic sub-groups are much more likely to support President Obama than are their white sub-group counterparts.

African-Americans are the final major racial/ethnic group in the American political universe. Results from Economist/YouGov polls suggest that little has changed in the political allegiance of African Americans since 2008. Blacks continue to evince overwhelming support for the Democratic party and the President in particular. Few
electorally significant divisions within the Black community exist. For now, Black Americans remain a largely uniform group in terms of their voting decisions.