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Poll: Mixed Results on Race, Gender, Age in Presidential Election

Posted April 18, 2008

— Most North Carolina residents say race, gender and age will not have an impact on their vote in the upcoming presidential election.

But more than half of respondents in the latest Elon University Poll say they know someone whose decision will be tied to at least one of these characteristics.

Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said race does not make a difference in how they vote; 79 percent said a candidate's gender makes no difference; and 66 percent said they do not factor age in their decision.

But when asked if they knew someone who would not vote for a candidate based on those attributes, 64 percent of respondents said they knew someone who would not vote for a woman; 54 percent said they knew someone who would not vote for a black candidate; and 44 percent said they knew someone who would not vote for someone they'd consider "too old."

The candidate most identified to be favorable or extremely favorable was Republican Sen. John McCain with 52 percent, followed by Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with 49 and 44 percent, respectively.

While race, gender and age reportedly have minimal effects on voting decisions, the top three qualities citizens say influence their votes were experience, exaggerated statements and personality.

Governor's Race

In the race for N.C. governor, the competition between Democrats Beverly Perdue and Richard Moore will likely come down to voters who have yet to choose a candidate. The two are tied in terms of approval – 31 percent of citizens say they approved or strongly approved of the candidates – but 40 percent remain undecided.

Republican Pat McCrory has a 29 percent approval rating, the highest of candidates in his party. Nearly 60 percent of voters have yet to pick a favorite in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Senate Race

More than half of voters surveyed approved of the job Senator Elizabeth Dole is doing. She had a 56 percent satisfaction rate and is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.

The Democrats in that race are not as familiar to the voters. 58 percent had not formed an opinion about State Senator Kay Hagan; 62 percent said the same about investment banker Jim Neal.

The poll, conducted April 13-17, 2008, by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 543 North Carolina residents. It has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

The sample is of the population in general and does not restrict respondents by their voter eligibility or their likelihood of voting in an election.


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  • whatelseisnew Apr 18, 2008

    I am voting for Chubaka

  • LastRick Apr 18, 2008

    godukebasketball, what these numbers mean is that the respondent was asked to give a favorable/unfavorable rating for each candidate individually. Meaning, I might vote Hillary but I can still give McCain a high rating.

    I think the main message to take away from the article is that someone's lying. 91% said race doesn't factor in their choice but over half of them "know someone who wouldn't", etc etc. Yeah, that "someone" is them. It's one of the concerns about Obama as the nominee -- the chance of the Bradley Effect come November at the polls.

  • seankelly15 Apr 18, 2008

    godukebasketball - Why would you assume that these numbers are mutually inclusive? If I ask three questions 1) how would you rate McCain, 2) how would you rate Obama and 3) how would you rate Clinton why would these three questions share the same base rate?

  • Through a glass darkly Apr 18, 2008

    I have a favorable impression of McCain. Due to his stance on war, I can't see myself voting for him, but that doesn't mean I have an unfavorable impression of him. Unlike many on this website, it isn't an all or nothing thing.

  • godukebasketball Apr 18, 2008

    How does this work: "The candidate most identified to be favorable or extremely favorable was Republican Sen. John McCain with 52 percent, followed by Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with 49 and 44 percent, respectively." ? Last time I checked, 52% + 49% + 44% was 145%.

  • WRALcensorsforIslam Apr 18, 2008

    Question, when more than 9/10 black voters vote for Obama can we conclude that that is race based voting or is it just some incredible, cosmic coincidence that +90% of black voters think exactly alike and have the exact same opinions on matters as diverse as politics, character, experience, candidate capabilities, and the like? We're already seeing the media painting Obama as the "victim" of race based voting, when in fact, he is the beneficiary of people going to the polls and casting ballots based upon his skin tone.

    This looks a lot like the Old South where white Democrats received the votes +90% of the votes of white voters because of race. I'm just curious why it is that race based voting is okay for some to engage in and yet very evil for others to engage in.

    Here come the excuses and rationalizations folks....

  • mep Apr 18, 2008

    Harrison Bergeron- Wow! Great info. Thank you.
    I think Ben Franklin was right... there are lies, dang lies, and then there are statistics.

  • Through a glass darkly Apr 18, 2008

    What do you mean by *represent* NC voters?

    For this poll, Elon surveyed 543 voters, and asked them a series of question, calculating a margin of error of 4.3%.

    Now, imagine if Elon had asked EVERYONE and had come up with the fraction of the entire population who answered in some particular way. The numbers mean that there is a 95% chance that the mean of the poll (of 543 voters) will come within 4.3% of what the entire population would have answered.

    You don't have to ask everyone. The whole purpose of a survey is that you don't have to ask everyone. You don't need a particular number of respondants -- that is covered in the margin of error.

    It also doesn't tell you how good the question is, or whether people lied -- it reflects what the total population would have answered.

  • Harrison Bergeron Apr 18, 2008


    For the population of North Carolina, at the given confidence interval with a confidence level of 95%, only a sample size of 600 is needed. See here:


  • mep Apr 18, 2008

    Once again, a small polling is used to represent the whole.
    I believe statistically, a random survey of at least 2400 people is necessary for a true representation of any given data query. Anyone know for sure? Regardless, the story proves that race, age, and gender can be an issue.