Mitt Romney is getting a big boost from US military veterans on Memorial Day.
Veterans, about 13 percent of the adult population and consisting mostly of older men, support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for president by 58 percent to 34 percent, while nonveterans give Obama a four-percentage-point edge, according to Gallup.
"Obama and Romney are tied overall at 46 percent apiece among all registered voters in this sample," Gallup reported. "Men give Romney an eight-point edge, while women opt for Obama over Romney by seven points.
"It turns out that the male skew for Romney is driven almost entirely by veterans," Gallup says.
Obama gave Memorial Day remarks today at both Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Romney appeared at a Memorial Day event in San Diego with 2008 Republican nominee -- and Vietnam veteran -- John McCain.
Four years ago, McCain beat Obama among veterans by 54 percent to 44 percent.
Overall, Obama faces any “gender gap” among men. Among nonveteran men, Gallup finds, Obama has a four-point edge, and they’re essentially tied (46-46 percent) among all registered voters, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Veterans are an important group. They make up 13 percent of the electorate (24 percent of all adult men). And although a dwindling percentage of Americans have served in the armed forces since the end of the draft in 1973, they’re an important part of the GOP’s base. In 2008, Sen. John McCain beat Obama among veterans by 54-44 percent.
"We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us," Obama said in his weekend radio address. "By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect."
Why veterans are so strong in their preference for the Republican presidential candidate is not entirely clear, Gallup concedes.
“Previous Gallup analysis has suggested that two processes may be at work,” writes Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport in his analysis. “Men who serve in the military may become socialized into a more conservative orientation to politics as a result of their service. Additionally, men who in the last decades have chosen to enlist in the military may have a more Republican orientation to begin with.”
Veterans will be key in several battleground states. Florida, home to several military installations, has more than 1.6 million veterans, according to the Veterans Administration. Pennsylvania has nearly 1 million veterans, while Virginia and North Carolina each have about 800,000 veterans living in their states, the Monitor pointed out.
Like much of their respective generations, neither Romney nor Obama has served in the military. This will be the first election since World War II in which neither major-party candidate is a veteran. Among GOP contenders, the major exception this year has been Ron Paul, who served as a flight surgeon in the US Air Force.
“Barring unforeseen developments such as the re-institution of the military draft, the proportion of the male population in this country that will have served in the armed forces will decrease in the years ahead as the older population dominated by veterans dies off,” Newport writes. “These data suggest that Democrats could get an overall boost from this demographic phenomenon as these apparently reliable Republican voters become a smaller and smaller proportion of the population.”
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