Since 1968, Kansas has gone for the Republican nominee for president, and 2012 was no different. By a wide 22 point margin (60 percent to 38 percent), Mitt Romney defeated President 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 percent to 47.5 percent). Beyond the election results, presidential election years also offer an opportunity — by using exit poll data — to analyze any similarities and differences between group preferences in Kansas versus national group preferences. On 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 voting (as a percent of state voters) in any state except for Wyoming. Twenty-seven 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, nationally, independent voters went for Romney 50 percent to 45 percent and in Kansas they went for Romney 51 percent to 43 percent.
Looking at the numbers in terms of race, nationally, white voters made up 72 percent of all voters, and they went for Romney by 20 points (59 percent to 39 percent), while in Kansas they were 87 percent of all voters and went for Romney by 31 points (64 percent to 33 percent). White men went for Romney by 27 points nationally (62 percent to 35 percent), but in Kansas 74 percent of all white men voted for Romney, giving him a 50-point advantage over Obama (74 percent 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 percent to 44 percent. In Kansas, however, Romney won the female vote by 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent, and won the male vote by a whopping 40 points, 69 percent to 29 percent. Nationally, Romney won men by much less, 7 points, 52 percent to 45 percent. An interesting subset of the female vote that has received a lot of attention is unmarried women. In this category, Kansas lies a bit closer to the national numbers, with Obama winning by a 19-point advantage in Kansas, 58 percent to 39 percent. Nationally, he won unmarried women by 36 points, 67 percent to 31 percent. Romney won married men by 22 points nationwide but by 46 points in Kansas.
One very large divergence between Kansas and the nation in terms of the Obama vote lies in the different age categories. Across ages, Romney significantly outperformed Obama in Kansas compared to the president’s national numbers. Among younger voters, aged 18-29, Romney won by 13 points, 54 percent to 41 percent, while nationally Obama won those voters by a 23 point margin, 60 percent to 37 percent; Among voters aged 30-44, in Kansas Romney won by 20 points (59 percent to 39 percent) while nationally Obama won by 7 points (52 percent to 45 percent); Among voters aged 45-64, in Kansas Romney won 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, the 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 of the president favorably while 46 percent thought of him unfavorably, a 7-point positive margin.
Dr. Bob Beatty is a professor of political science at Washburn University, a political analyst for Kansas First News in Topeka and a contributor to the Insight Kansas writing group.