CRAWFORD, Texas—We hear and read a lot these days about how Americans are highly polarized politically—split down the middle between supporting President Bush and Democrat John Kerry in the upcoming election.
But if the electorate was actually split in two, polls would show Bush and Kerry running neck and neck in every state and region, and among each gender, race, age, education and income group.
They do not.
A look at a nationwide Gallup Poll taken earlier this month indeed shows Bush and Kerry locked in a tight race. Among likely voters, Bush had 50% support, Kerry 47%. When you factor in the poll’s 4 percentage-point error margin, the two are virtually tied.
But when we examine the poll’s interior numbers, the statistics show a much different picture. How we vote is largely a factor of who we are, where we live and what our personal background is.
For example, among men, Bush leads 51%- 44%. Among women, Kerry is ahead, 50%-49%.
By race, whites favor Bush 55%- 41%. Non-whites lean 3-1 to Kerry. Blacks, included among the non-whites, break 9-1 for Kerry.
No splits there.
An historical observation: The last Democratic presidential candidate to win a majority of the white vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In other words, since whites outnumber non-whites, heavy minority support is essential to a Democratic victory.
Our presidential preferences are also influenced by age. Younger voters 18 to 29, who have a weak track record of turning out to vote, favor Bush 56%- 44%. Those 30-49 also lean to Bush, but not as heavily as the younger crowd, 51%-47%.
In the 50-64 group, those most likely to feel shaky about their jobs and worried about making it in retirement, break for Kerry, 49%-45%.
And among the seniors, 65 and over, Bush leads, 50%-46%. That comes as somewhat of a surprise because Kerry has been hammering Bush pretty hard over his prescription drug plan for seniors and his efforts to reform Social Security. But it’s still within the error margin.
Who you are going to vote for also has a lot to do with where you live.
If you live in the East, Kerry is likely to carry your state. He’s heavily favored by Easterners, 60%-36%. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Jersey are safely in the Kerry camp.
Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are the only Eastern battlegrounds.
If you live in the South, Bush is in control, 57%-41%. Except for Florida and Arkansas—both tossups—the South is Bush country. The Kerry camp insists North Carolina is in play because it is the home of Kerry running mate John Edwards. If Bush loses North Carolina, he is going to lose the election—big time.
Midwesterners break toward Bush 51%- 43%. But that margin is deceiving. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Missouri are close, with Bush and Kerry competing heavily in all of them. Bush’s lead is padded in the region by heavily Republican states such as Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and the Dakotas.
The West also leans to Bush, 51%-46%, but again, the picture changes, state by state. California, the biggest electoral prize, is safely in Kerry’s pocket; Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are a lock for Bush. Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Colorado are competitive.
Two more interesting poll findings: People who are married with children under 18 at home lean heavily to Bush. People married with no children at home divide evenly between Bush and Kerry. Regular churchgoers also favor Bush. Those who seldom attend religious services like Kerry. Draw your own conclusions.
So the next time someone comes along and says the country is split between Bush and Kerry, tell them, “Yes, but . . .”
And tell them too, this election is far from over.