In the Presidential Election, Age Does Matter, But Only If You’re . . .

Unless you bend over backwards to avoid reading about politics (in which case, would you be here?), you probably know that President Barack Obama does better among younger voters than Mitt Romney, and that Romney does better among older voters than Obama.

Consider, for example, Gallup’s analysis of more than 15,000 daily tracking interviews with registered voters conducted from April 11 to May 16, 2012. It shows Obama and Romney tied at 46 percent each. Among voters aged 18 to 29, however, Obama beats Romney by 21 percentage points (56 percent to 35 percent). Among voters aged 70 and older, Romney beats Obama by 14 percent points (53 percent to 39 percent). And those are the best age groups for each candidate.

Dig a bit deeper, though, and the Gallup numbers yield something of a revelation: White voters – or, to be more specific, non-Hispanic white voters – account for virtually all the differences.

Here’s how the folks at Gallup put it:

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.

Among nonwhites, in fact, Obama’s margin over Romney stays within a relatively narrow, six-point band across all six age groups, ranging from 57 percent in the 70+ bracket to 63 percent in the 50-59 bracket.

Among whites, Romney leads across all age groups, with his margins rising substantially among those 40 and older. He leads by just two points among whites aged 18 to 29 but by 25 points among whites aged 40 to 49, a 23-point band.

Will we reach a day when factors such as race and age don’t make that much of a difference in presidential preference? Here’s hoping. -Bill Hogan