Voters Divided Between Obama, Romney Along Widening Racial Lines

Friday, 25 May 2012 12:24 PM

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The presidential contest between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney is breaking not just along racial lines but along class, gender and professional lines as well, pointing to a sharply fractured electorate.

Recent polling data shows whites breaking for Romney along with business owners, construction workers and farmers while Obama takes the professional class and non-whites.

University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato told Newsmax, “In a polarized era when the political parties represent very different ideas about the economy, government, and social issues, these sorts of divisions are inevitable.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that when asked who would do more to advance their families’ economic interests, struggling middle-class white voters chose the former Massachusetts governor over Obama by 26 percent, 58 to 32 percent. However, when non-whites were asked the same question, they overwhelming sided with Obama.

Obama also fares poorly with white voters without a college degree, a demographic Obama lost in 2008 58 percent to 40 percent. Previous Democratic standard bearers John Kerry and Al Gore also performed poorly with that group.

“Democrats are very likely to lose those voters” again, Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster told the Post. “The question is by how much.”

However, African Americans are another question. President George W. Bush managed to get 11 percent of the black vote in 2004 but Obama took 96 percent of that vote in 2008 and the numbers of African American who rushed to the polls helped Obama win in North Carolina and Virginia.

The most recent Post-ABC polls showed Obama with 92 percent of the African American vote and Romney with just 5 percent. Polls also have found that the issue of gay marriage, which Obama recently endorsed, does not seem to be harming the president with African American voter who had opposed the issue.

A Public Policy Polling survey in Maryland, where gay marriage is to be on the ballot, found that African Americans had followed the president’s evolution.

“Previously 56 percent said they would vote against the new law with only 39 percent planning to uphold it,” Public Policy Polling wrote. “Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55 percent of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36 percent now opposed.”

A Washington Post poll found that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent prior to Obama’s endorsement.

A recent analysis of polling data by Gallup found, “Romney's core electoral strength -- as has been the case for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections -- is with non-Hispanic white Americans in general, among whom he is currently winning over Obama by a sizable margin.”

“The groups giving Obama his highest support at this point include blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and -- among whites -- those who are nonreligious, those who are single or living in a domestic partnership, and the young,” Gallup found. “White Americans with postgraduate educations and professionals, groups that are more liberal than other Americans, also heavily favor Obama.”

Various polls also reveal a gender gap with women favoring Obama and men Romney. While such a split between men and women and black and whites follow traditional patterns, polling is now showing splits along class and professional lines.

An analysis by Gallup found that Obama leads Romney among professionals and service workers, while Romney leads among all others groups including construction and business owners. The two are tied among clerical and office workers.

Professionals, a group that includes lawyers, doctors, scientists, teachers, engineers, nurses, and accountants, support Obama 51 percent to 43 percent. Service workers, made up of police officers, firefighters, waiters, fast-food workers, janitorial workers and the like, favor Obama 53 percent to 40 percent.

Among managers and executive, Romney leads 49 to 42 percent, among construction and mining workers 58 to 36 percent and business owners 56 to 37 percent. Romney holds his biggest lead among the 2 percent of the workforce that are in farming, fishing, or forestry workers. These workers support Romney 66 percent to 29 percent.

“The results confirm that workers' vote choices are significantly related to the type of work they do,” Gallup said. “The largest category of workers is ‘professionals’ -- which would include lawyers, doctors, scientists, teachers, engineers, nurses, and accountants.

These professionals prefer Obama over Romney by 51 percent to 43 percent. In these data, 40 percent of professionals have postgraduate education, by far the highest proportion of any of the 11 job categories. Voters with postgraduate education are more liberal than average, and constitute a strong Obama support group.”

Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, said that “except for the proportions, there isn't very much difference from the 2008 Obama-McCain vote.

“Obama and McCain essentially tied with men; this time I think Romney will carry men while Obama again wins women,” he said. “Obama will clean up in all minority categories and with young people, while Romney expands McCain's lead among whites, especially non-college, blue collar whites.”

Gallup’s look at various working segments of the electorate also illustrates just how close the election is likely to be. Gallup found that in the “sample of working voters, Romney and Obama are statistically tied, with Romney at 47 percent of the vote and Obama at 45 percent.”

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