Demographic Splits and the Presidential Race

by: brklyngrl

Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 11:29

This post details demographic differences in support among both Democratic and Republican candidates. I used data from the most recent Cook release of omnibus demographic polling (pdf). It includes data from 5 Cook polls, one in May, two in June, one in August, and one last week (September). At times, I also make reference to the most recent September poll (pdf). I included candidates who have enough support to create reasonably large subgroups of supporters. If candidates are in the low single digits nationally, they will not have enough supporters in demographic subgroups to get a solid estimate of their support, even when using data from multiple polls. In the Democratic race, I included Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. In the Republican race I included Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, and Romney.

In the Democratic race, the biggest demographic splits are by level of education, by region, and among independent voters who plan to vote in the Democratic primary. The dynamics of the race differ among voters with different levels of education and in different regions of the country. Clinton and Obama are basically tied among college educated voters, among Midwestern voters, and among independents. Clinton maintains a convincing lead in every other demographic subcategory. Additionally, Edwards and Obama receive similar levels of support among white voters and among voters over 65, although both are well behind Clinton in these demographic categories.

In the Republican primary, ideology and partisan affiliation are major dividing lines that alter the dynamics of the race. Giuliani and Thompson are basically tied among Republican primary voters who describe themselves as strong Republicans, as well as among conservative leaning Republicans. McCain and Giuliani are close among independents who vote in the Republican primary. Additionally, the Thompson gender gap (widely reported) is worth keeping an eye on. In this omnibus survey, it is slightly larger than the Clinton gender gap, and in a recent ARG poll it was up to 30 points. It is bouncing around a lot, but I think Thompson will probably be in trouble in the general election if he can't even convince Republican women to vote for him.

Details for each candidate in the extended entry

brklyngrl :: Demographic Splits and the Presidential Race
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton does moderately better among non-white voters (41%) than white voters (35%). She does especially well with Hispanic voters, where she receives support from 47% of Hispanic voters surveyed. She also gets significantly more support from women (40%) than men (33%). Nevertheless, I continue to feel that the magnitude of the gender gap among Clinton supporters is overstated. Clinton is the first choice of both male and female Democrats. She does better with voters who have less than a college education (45% among those with a high school education or less, 40% among those with some college) than those who have completed college (28%). Obama actually slightly leads the race (31%) among voters with a college education or better - so the education gap may be more of a factor in the Democratic primary than the gender gap. Clinton does better in the Northeast than any other region of the country. The Midwest is her weakest region. She leads the race in every region of country except the Midwest, where she is tied with Obama. Clinton supporters are strongly split by partisan identification, but not necessarily by ideology (conservative, moderate, liberal). She is more likely to be supported by strong Democrats and Dem Leaners than by independents and Republicans who will vote in the Democratic primary. Her strongest support comes from self-described moderates, although the difference in moderates and liberals supporting her is not significant.
Barack Obama
Barack Obama does better with non-white voters than white voters. Obama and Clinton perform very similarly among African American voters. Clinton is receiving 39% of African American support to Obama's 41%. Most of Obama's lead over Edwards comes from non-white voters. He leads Edwards by only two points among white voters, but by 21 points among non-white voters. He does moderately better with men (26%) than women (22%), and does significantly better with voters under 50 than with voters over 50. He also does better with college educated voters than those with less than a college education. The Midwest is Obama's strongest area - he draws support from 31% of Midwestern voters, and is in the low 20s in every other region of the country. Obama is more likely to be supported by independents and by liberals.
John Edwards
John Edwards does significantly better with white voters (17%) than with non-white voters (9%). He does moderately better with men (16%) than with women (13%). His support is relatively stable across age group and level of education, although it is possible that he may do better with college educated voters and voters over 50. The Midwest is his strongest region. Contrary to popular belief, he does not seem to do significantly better (or worse) in the South. Each of our candidates is polling very closely to their overall average in the South. Edwards' support is smooth across ideological and partisan lines.

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani leads national polling of Republicans in both the September poll and the omnibus poll. His support is actually stronger in the September poll (27%) than averaged across time (24%). In the omnibus poll he does significantly better with young voters (under 35) than with voters in any other age group. He also gets significantly more support from college-educated voters than from voters with less than a high school education.  Unsurprisingly, he does significantly better with Northeastern voters than with voters in other regions of the country. Giuliani's support is also relatively smooth across ideological groups, although he does better with Republicans describing themselves as moderately liberal than Republicans describing themselves as conservative
John McCain
McCain's support declines from 19% in the omnibus poll to 15% in the most recent poll, and drops to third behind Thompson. His support is also clumped demographically. McCain does significantly better with non-white voters (27%) than with white voters (17%). Although the cell sizes are small, and therefore not overly reliable, McCain seems to do particularly well with Hispanic voters. He leads Giuliani by 10 points among Hispanic voters. In addition, he does significantly better among voters between the ages of 35 and 50 than with any other age group, and does better among voters with less than a high school education than with voters who have some college education. His support is smooth geographically across the country. McCain continues to have trouble with the Republican base. He does better with voters who lean Republican or describe themselves as independents than with voters who describe themselves as strong Republicans. He also does better with self-described moderates than conservatives, and with moderately liberal Republicans compared to conservative Republicans.
Fred Thompson
Because Fred Thompson is a late entry to the Republican field, he was not included in every poll. Therefore, there is less data available for demographic crosstabs for Thompson than for other candidates. Cell sizes are especially small for groups that are under-represented among Republican voters (such as, umm, non-white people). So take the Thompson demographic results with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, there are some interesting patterns. Fred Thompson does marginally better among white voters than non-white voters, almost twice as well with men as with women, better with older voters (50+) than younger voters, and better with voters in the South than any other region. The Thompson gender gap in this poll is in line with (actually smaller than) the gap found in many other polls, which increases my confidence in the results. Ideologically, Thompson supporters are the opposite of McCain supporters. It's clear that he is the current candidate of the conservative base. He has more support among strong Republican supporters than any other partisan group, better among conservatives than moderates or liberals, and better among conservative Republicans than moderately liberal Republicans.
Mitt Romney
I am even less confident in the demographic results for Mitt Romney. Because he is polling in the single digits nationally, there may not be enough information to poll demographic groups accurately. He may do better with white voters than non-white voters. Only 8 non-white voters (of 179) report supporting Romney. He may also do moderately better among voters over 50, college educated voters, and voters in the West. His support among Western voters is twice as strong as his support in any other region. Ideologically, Romney's supporters are similar to Thompson's, although the degree of difference between ideological groups is smaller. Romney does better among strong Republicans than among independents or Democrats, better among conservatives than moderates or liberals, and better among conservative Republicans than moderately liberal Republicans.

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