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In Presidential Election, Age Is a Factor Only Among Whites

In Presidential Election, Age Is a Factor Only Among Whites

Nonwhites of all ages overwhelmingly support Obama

PRINCETON, NJ -- Barack Obama maintains a substantial edge over Mitt Romney among voters younger than age 40, while Romney wins among those 40 and older. Obama does best among those 18 to 29, beating Romney by 21 percentage points, while Romney's best group is those aged 70 and older, among whom he wins over Obama by a 14-point margin.

Vote Preferences by Age, All U.S. Registered Voters, April-May 2012

These results are based on an analysis of more than 15,000 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with registered voters, conducted from April 11-May 16, 2012. Overall, Obama and Romney are tied over this period, with 46% support each.

The race is most competitive among 50- to 59-year-old voters, who tilt slightly toward Romney by 47% to 44%. Those aged 40 to 49 and 60 to 69 support Romney by slightly larger seven-point margins. But among the youngest American voters, those younger than 30, the race is highly one-sided. These young voters give Obama a 56% to 35% lead. On the other hand, among seniors 70 and older, Romney leads by 53% to 39%.

Younger voters' lower likelihood to vote, however, underscores a particular challenge facing the Obama campaign. Americans younger than 40, and particularly those younger than 30, are less likely to say they will definitely vote than are those 40 and older -- precisely those who are most likely to support Romney.

Age Makes Little Difference Among Nonwhite Voters

The impact of age on voting intentions is driven almost entirely by differences among non-Hispanic whites. Age makes little difference in voting preferences among nonwhites, more than 70% of whom support Obama regardless of their age category.

Vote Preferences by Age and Race, Among Registered Voters, April-May 2012

Support is at least marginally higher for Romney than for Obama among all age groups of whites, but rises substantially among those 40 and older, as it does among all Americans. The Republican nominee is ahead by a slim two points among whites aged 18 to 29 but by 25 points among whites aged 40 to 49.

Among nonwhites, Obama's margin over Romney changes only slightly, ranging from 57 to 63 points.


In 2012, age is a significant correlate of voting behavior -- as has been well established in previous elections -- but basically only among non-Hispanic white voters. Nonwhite voters are so strong in their support for Obama that age makes little difference.

Gallup's large sample sizes allow for a more detailed analysis of age than is usually possible with single surveys. This analysis is based on more than 15,000 interviews conducted from April 11 to mid-May, and shows that while the race is a dead heat over that time across all voters, Obama wins by large margins among all nonwhite age groups. On the other hand, Romney's edge over Obama among whites ranges from a slim two points among 18- to 29-year-olds to 25 points among 40- to 49-year-olds.

Among all Americans, age is a predictor of voter turnout. Voters younger than 40 are significantly less likely to say they will definitely vote than are those 40 and older -- presenting a challenge for the Obama campaign as it attempts to maximize its relative advantage among the younger group.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking April 11-May 16, 2012, with a random sample of 15,605 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. The margin of error is higher among age and race subgroups, depending on the size of the samples.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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