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Exit polls add to election story

Bob Beatty

By A Contributor

Kansas has gone for the Republican nominee for president since 1968, and 2012 was no different. By a wide 22-point margin (60 percent to 38 percent), Mitt Romney defeated President Barack Obama in the Sunflower State, an increase of eight points over John McCain’s vote share in 2008.

Nationally, Obama defeated Romney by 3.3 percent (50.8 to 47.5 percent). Beyond the election results, presidential election years also offer an opportunity — by using exit poll data — to analyze similarities and differences between group preferences in Kansas and nationally. As a whole, 2012 produced more differences than similarities.

First, on Election Day, 48 percent of Kansas voters identified themselves as Republicans, the second highest percentage of Republicans (to Wyoming) voting in any state. Of the rest, 27 percent identified as Democrats and 24 percent as members of no party. Nationally, the numbers were 38 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican and 29 percent independent. One similarity is that independent voters nationally went for Romney 50 to 45 percent and in Kansas they went for Romney 51 to 43 percent.

Looking at the numbers in terms of race,  whites nationally made up 72 percent of all voters, and they went for Romney by 20 points (59 to 39 percent). In Kansas, 87 percent of voters were white, and they and went for Romney by 31 points (64 to 33 percent). White men went for Romney by 27 points nationally (62 to 35 percent), but in Kansas 74 of all white men voted for Romney, giving him a 50-point advantage over Obama (74 to 24 percent).

One of the reasons Obama was able to win a second term was the support he received from women, winning that group of voters nationally by 11 points, 55 to 44 percent. In Kansas, however, Romney won the female vote by 4 points, 51 to 47 percent, and won the male vote by a whopping 40 points, 69 to 29 percent. Nationally Romney won men by much less, 7 points (52 to 45 percent). An interesting subset of the female vote that has received a lot of attention is unmarried women. In this category, Kansas was a bit closer to the national numbers, with Obama winning by a 19-point advantage in Kansas (58 to 39 percent). Nationally, he won unmarried women by 36 points, 67 to 31 percent. Romney won married men by 22 points nationwide but by 46 points in Kansas.

One large divergence between Kansas and the nation in terms of the Obama vote lies in the different age categories. Romney significantly outperformed Obama across all ages in Kansas compared to the national numbers. Among voters aged 18-29, Romney won in Kansas by 13 points, 54 to 41 percent, while, while nationally Obama won those voters by a 23-point margin, 60 to 37 percent. Among voters aged 30-44, Romney won Kansas by 20 points (59to 39 percent), while nationally Obama won by 7 points (52 to 45 percent). Among voters aged 45-64, Romney won in Kansas by a massive 27 points, while nationally he won that group by a much smaller 4 points; Among voters aged 65 and older, Romney won in Kansas by 22 points and won nationally by 12 points.

Finally, in what should not be a big surprise, given the actual results, Kansas exit polls showed that the majority of voters here did not think too kindly of the president, while nationally, the opposite is true. In Kansas, 60 percent of voters had an unfavorable opinion of President Obama, while 39 percent had a favorable opinion, a 21-point negative margin. Nationally, 53 percent of voters thought favorably of the president favorably while 46 percent thought of him unfavorably, a 7-point positive margin.

Bob Beatty is a professor of political science at Washburn Univer-sity and political analyst for Kansas First News in Topeka.

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