November 7, 2004

How Americans Voted: A Political Portrait


A LOT like last time, only more so: That is the picture that emerges of George W. Bush's winning majority in the 2004 presidential election. He held on to the votes of most of the groups that supported him in 2000, while making inroads among a few that did not.

Most men, whites, Protestants, regular churchgoers, high earners, conservatives and, naturally, most Republicans voted for Mr. Bush. Women, blacks, Hispanics, young voters, the lower paid, moderates, liberals and, of course, Democrats gave John Kerry a majority of their votes.

This portrait of the 2004 electorate emerges from interviews with 13,600 voters conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool, a consortium of ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. The large number of respondents makes it possible to measure the preferences of some groups, like Jews and Asians, whose share of the population is too small to be examined in typical telephone surveys.

Highlights of the survey's results and comparable figures for the previous six presidential elections are shown in the table.

The Gender Gap

Although the majority of women continued to vote Democratic, Mr. Bush increased the Republican share, reducing the gap between his results among women and men to 7 percentage points, down from 10 points in 2000. A gender gap is seen in all age groups, ranging from 4 points among voters under 30 to 11 points among those over 60.

The gap first attracted attention in 1980, when men were 8 percentage points more likely to support Ronald Reagan than women were.

The Democratic candidate has won the most votes among unmarried voters in every election since 1988. Unmarried women, especially, backed Mr. Kerry this year, giving him 62 percent of their votes.

Religion, Race and Ethnicity

A majority of Protestants, particularly white and Hispanic Protestants, supported Mr. Bush. Black voters, regardless of religion, continue to support the Democratic candidate overwhelmingly, giving almost 9 in 10 of their votes to Mr. Kerry. Jewish voters also remained firmly in the Democratic column, though Mr. Bush expanded his share to 25 percent this year from 19 percent in 2000.

Although John Kerry was the first Catholic nominated by a major party for president since 1960, most Catholic voters chose his opponent. Mr. Bush was supported by 52 percent of all Catholics, a significant change from 2000, when Al Gore won more Catholic votes than Mr. Bush did. Fifty-six percent of white Catholics backed Mr. Bush this year, but 58 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for Mr. Kerry.

In fact, a majority of Hispanics in general backed Mr. Kerry. Still, Mr. Bush won a greater share of the Hispanic vote than any other Republican candidate for president since the advent of exit polls in 1972. Mr. Kerry received a majority of votes from people under 30, both men and women. Although most white voters in general preferred Mr. Bush, his share of the white vote was smallest among those under 30. Blacks of every age overwhelmingly favored Mr. Kerry.

For the past three elections, Republicans have been steadily regaining voters aged 60 or older, a group that supported Ronald Reagan but switched to the Democrats in the Clinton years. This year, most voted for Mr. Bush.


Although Mr. Kerry was backed by a majority of voters who live in big cities, their support of the Democratic ticket fell to 60 percent this year, compared with 71 percent for Mr. Gore in 2000. Mr. Bush once again ran strongly in rural areas, and did slightly better among suburbanites, who split evenly in 2000. Suburban men were particularly supportive of Mr. Bush, giving him 55 percent of their votes.

Party Loyalty

As in 2000, few voters crossed party lines, and fewer still voted for a different party than last time. Political independents split their votes fairly evenly.

In party identification, Republicans appeared to pull even with Democrats at 37 percent of the voters each; four years ago, Democrats led, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company