In the past six months, we asked 191,144 Americans about their choice in the Presidential Election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. That same group also provided millions of answers to thousands of other poll questions about their lifestyle, demographics, favorite brands, celebrities, movies, finances, and even their hair and eye color.
We recently analyzed all of that data to find the questions that were most predictive of a person’s choice for President. Of the 15,765 questions we analyzed, 255 questions met what we consider a statistically-significant, predictive threshold. For the stat geeks out there, we ran a Chi-Squared test to find all correlations with a P-value less than .001, then ranked them using Tschuprow's T co-efficient.
Most of these predictive traits can be traced to a handful of leading indicators like age, race, political affiliation, or wealth. So, for many of these correlations, you can find an easy explanation. Others may leave you scratching your head. We broke the 255 correlations into easier-to-follow categories. Enjoy.
#1 Health Care Reform- Quite plainly, nothing is more predictive of who one intends to vote for than how they feel about President Obama’s health care reforms. Of those who agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the health care reform law (Correlation #1), 92% are Obama supporters. Of those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, 91% are Romney supporters. Undecided voters are approximately three to four times more likely to have no strong opinion on the ruling.
#2 The Candidates’ Records- No surprise here: People who approve of the job Obama has done as president (Correlation #2) will vote for him this fall. The opposite is true of those who feel that Romney has the right skills and background to lead the country (Correlation #8).
#3 Political Affiliation- Duh. Only 4% of liberals (#10) say they intend to vote for Romney, while a whopping 7% of conservatives say they’re voting for Obama. Even more stringent are the Tea Partiers, 4% of whom intend to vote for Obama (#3). (As a special bonus, people who have a positive opinion of Sarah Palin (#15) are much, much more likely to support – you guessed it – Romney.)
#4 Birth Control- The issue of how birth control should be treated by employers’ health insurance plans is as divisive as any issue that we track. 91% of Obama supporters think that employers should be impelled to cover their female employees’ birth control, regardless of their moral or religious objections (#5). 88% of Romney supporters feel the employers should be allowed to opt out.
#5 Minimum Wage- Obama supporters overwhelmingly favor increasing the minimum wage to $10/hour (#11), while Romney supporters are just as convinced that doing so would be a bad idea. Undecided voters are nearly split on the issue – 55% favor such a raise, while 45% oppose.
#6 Energy Policy- While debates about Obama’s economic and health care policies have dominated his first term, that doesn’t mean that voters are any less divided on matters pertaining to energy. 76% of Romney supporters feel that solar energy should not be subsidized by the government (#13). Just as many Obama supporters feel the opposite. For more traditional forms of energy, Obama supporters feel that the economic benefits of coal energy do not outweigh its adverse environmental impact (#36), and that taxes should be raised on the oil and natural gas industry (#47). Romney supporters? Not so much.
#7 The State of the Union- Bad news for Obama here. As a rule, people who feel the country is headed in the right direction say they will vote for Obama (#16) – unfortunately for the President, only 15% of our poll respondents feel that way. 59% of our respondents feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, and those respondents strongly prefer Romney.
#8 Immigration- Another hot button issue. Romney supporters aren’t exactly thrilled with Obama’s decision to stop deporting law-abiding illegal immigrants who came to the US as children (#17), while Obama supporters whole-heartedly support it. In general, Romney’s base is very concerned about illegal immigration (#43), while Obama’s supporters are fairly ambivalent about the issue.
#9 The Deficit- We all knew this one was coming. Obama supporters are twenty-five times as likely to say they’re “not concerned at all” about accelerated government spending (#22). This massive imbalance can be attributed largely to the fact that 92% of Romney supporters say they are “very concerned” with this issue.
#10 Gun Control- Obama supporters love guns (#26, #35, #88). Romney supporters don’t. (Okay, it’s the opposite – just keeping you on your toes.)
#11 Political Talk Show Hosts- People who like Jon Stewart (#45) or Stephen Colbert (#53) are very likely to be an Obama supporter. People who like Glenn Beck (#25) are much more likely to prefer Romney.
#12 Business and the Recession- If both Obama and Romney supporters are feeling pessimistic about the state of the union, they are sharply split on what’s helping the economy and what’s hurting it. Obama supporters feel unions help American productivity (#29); Romney backers feel they are a hindrance. Romney supporters are very concerned about high taxes and excessive regulation (#30); Obama supporters are ambivalent. Lastly, Obama supporters are less trusting of business leaders. If a business leader says a government policy is preventing companies from creating jobs, Romney supporters are more than three times as likely to feel the policy should be changed (#31).
#13 TV Networks- About two-thirds of Romney supporters turn to Fox News when watching cable news programming (#34). Obama supporters tend to watch anything but Fox News. As for broadcast networks, Obama supporters are most likely to watch NBC, then ABC, then CBS (#71). Romney supporters love Fox then CBS. Undecided voters are most likely to watch CBS, then ABC, or no network TV at all.
#14 The Military- Romney supporters are eight times as likely to believe that the US should spend more on the military (#70). Romney supporters were also more than twice as likely to believe that newspapers should refrain from criticizing the military when we are at war (#82). Why might this be the case? Perhaps because Romney supporters are 56% more likely to have a veteran in the family (#200).
#15 TV Talk Show Hosts- People who like David Letterman (#61) are significantly more likely to support Obama. Likewise, people who like Oprah (#73), Jimmy Kimmel (#125) and Conan O’Brien (#128) are most likely Obama supporters.
#16 Consumer Confidence- Overall, Obama supporters feel better about the national economy. They are almost five times as likely to say the economy is in good shape (#63), while Romney supporters are almost four times as likely to say it’s in poor shape. And even on a personal level, Obama supporters seem to feel more optimistic financially than Romney supporters. Obama supporters are more likely to feel that now is a good time to make a major purchase (#116), and are more likely to believe that their financial situation will improve over the course of the next six months (#137).
#17 Hollywood Stars- There are few more predictive ways to identify an Obama supporter than to ask someone about their favorite movie and TV stars. You would find that Obama supporters really like George Clooney (#59), Robert Redford (#85), Samuel L. Jackson (#91), Tom Hanks (#95), Matt Damon (#97), Brad Pitt (#102), Meryl Streep (#106), Leonardo DiCaprio (#109), Johnny Depp (#114), Jake Gyllenhaal (#117), Ben Affleck (#122), Jamie Foxx (#123), Seth Rogen (#126), Woody Allen (#129), Javier Bardem (#130), Philip Seymour Hoffman (#133), Helen Mirren (#134), Steve Carell (#135), Richard Gere (#140), Will Ferrell (#149), Shia LaBeouf (#155), James McAvoy (#160), Keira Knightley (#168), Mike Myers (#171), Clive Owen (#186), Viggo Mortensen (#187), Daniel Craig (#199), and Dwayne Johnson (#205). Only fans of Mel Gibson (#139) are highly predictive of a Romney supporter.
#18 Schools- Romney supporters are approximately three times as likely to have a favorable opinion of school vouchers (#74), and are more than twice as likely to have a favorable opinion of charter schools (#89).
#19 Pop Music Stars- Among the most predictive qualities of an Obama voter is how much they like Lady Gaga (#99) Jay-Z (#104), his wife Beyonce (#128), Lil Wayne (#131), or Bruno Mars (#148).
#20 Grocery Shopping- The next time you see someone with a grocery cart full of organic products (#142), they’re probably an Obama supporter. Same goes for people who purchase environmentally-friendly products (#80) or people who read the nutritional information on their food items (#229). If you see someone using plastic grocery bags (#194), yep, they’re probably a Romney supporter. Finally, if that person in front of you pays with a credit card (#231), they are more likely to support Romney. If they pay with a check or debit card, it’s Obama. Undecided voters are more likely than others to pay with cash.
#21 Sports and Country- We can safely assume that a big NASCAR fan (#209) is going to support Romney. Same holds true if they like to hunt or fish (#173), or listen to country music (#111).
#22 Recreational Reading- On the news front, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone who regularly reads the NY Times (#108) is a big fan of Obama, while someone who reads the NY Post (#132) will side with Romney. Fans of the Twilight Saga (#172) are in Obama’s corner. Do you know people who read political blogs (#162) every day? They are much more likely to support Romney. If they only read political blogs “Weekly,” they’re probably an Obama supporter. Undecided voters are likely to “Never” read political blogs.
#23 Fashion- Obama supporters are much more likely to be up on the latest fashion, particularly youth fashion. If someone is a big fan of Sean John (#143), Dolce & Gabbana (#145), H&M (#150), Phat Farm (#152), Rocawear (#154), Juicy Couture (#164), Prada (#165), Forever 21 (#170, the clothes, & #178, the store), Kenneth Cole shoes (#175), Ed Hardy (#176), American Apparel (#177), Candies shoes (#180), Chanel (#181), Ecko (#183), Lacoste (#193), Burberry (#198), and Express (#209), chances are really good that they will vote for Obama.
#24 Men vs. Women- It’s rare that we run a calculation like this and find Gender so far down the list (#146). While it is still very predictive, women are only 16% more likely to support Obama, while men are 15% more likely to support Romney.
#25 Google- No company is more strongly associated with a person’s Presidential choice than Google. People who feel that Google is “evil” (#147) will probably vote for Romney. People who consider Google “Trustworthy” (#167) and people who have an overall positive opinion of Google (#163) are significantly more likely to support Obama.
#26 Age- While some of the higher variables on this list are undoubtedly influenced by age-related factors, age in and of itself is not as high on our list as you might think (#151). Younger voters prefer Obama and older ones prefer Romney. The split breaks among those aged 35-44, where a full 9% of voters remain Undecided. Interestingly, the results are upside down if someone is a member of the AARP (#217). AARP members are more likely to support Obama.
#27 Home Sweet Home- People who own a home (#156) are most likely to support Romney. Renters and those still living with their parents are more likely to support Obama. People who have lived in their current residence the longest (#237), those who plan to buy their next residence (#242), and those who view owning a home as the “American Dream” (#226) are also much more likely to be Romney supporters.
#28 Union Household- No big shocker here, unless you thought this would appear higher on the list. Labor union members are 25% more likely to support Obama (#158).
#29 Parental Status- Parents and Grandparents in general, are more likely to support Romney (#159). Dads and Grandfathers, in particular, are much more likely to support Romney. Non-parents are 20% more likely to support Obama.
#30 Public Transportation- If you meet someone on the bus or subway, chances are they are much more likely to be supporters of Obama (#161).
#31 Facebook- The longer a person has been on Facebook (#181), and the more active they are on it (#231), the more likely they are to support Obama. A person who doesn’t use any social networking sites (#218) is much more likely to support Romney.
#32 Personality Type- It turns out that the good old-fashioned Myers-Briggs test can help you flush out an Obama supporter from a Romney one. When we asked people how they reach important conclusions (#183), solve problems (#189), or discuss “touchy” issues (#205), it proved to be remarkably predictive. Obama supporters are more likely to solve problems creatively, reach conclusions based on feeling, and approach touchy issues with a sense of sensitivity and diplomacy. Romney supporters will tend to solve problems more practically, reach conclusions objectively, and approach touchy issues in a straight-forward and direct way.
#33 Car Brands- If you’re cruising down the highway and see someone driving a GM car (#184), Mini (#191), or Fiat (#217), chances are pretty good that they are an Obama supporter.
#34 Walmart or Target- One of the best ways to predict who someone likes for President is to see where they spend the most money in a given year (#212). If someone makes the majority of their purchases at Target, they probably support Obama. If they spend more at Walmart, they are more likely to support Romney.
#35 Travel- We asked 18,268 respondents how many US states they have visited in their lifetime (#210). The more states an individual has visited, the more likely they are to be a Romney supporter. Undecided voters are 29% more likely to have visited less than 10 states.
#36 Marital Status- Married and “Widowed” voters are more likely to support Romney (#213). “Single & Never Married”, voters are more likely to support Obama.
#37 Race- White voters are slightly more likely to support Romney (#214). Black and Hispanic voters are much more likely to support Obama. “Other” races are most likely to be Undecided.
#38 Personal Media- An Obama supporter is going to be much more likely to frequently download music or movies over the Internet (#223), own an iPod of MP3 player (#241), or regularly watch full television programs online (#218). Romney supporters are more likely to have satellite television service (#236), while people with no premium television service are likely to be Undecided.
#39 Favorite Movie Genre- Here’s a cool one. We asked 18,521 people about their favorite type of movie (#22). People who love Action movies are much more likely to vote for Mitt Romney. Fans of Horror movies, then Dramas, then Comedies, are more likely to fall in Obama’s camp.
#40 Household Chores- Of 18,308 people we asked about their favorite household chores (#226), people who prefer Cooking and Cleaning are more likely to support Obama. If your neighbor loves working in their yard, there’s a good chance they’re a Romney supporter.
#41 Qdoba Mexican Grill- Of the hundred or so restaurants we track, only Qdoba (#228) correlates significantly to someone’s presidential preference. Undecided voters are 48% more likely to “Love” this fast-casual Mexican joint. Romney supporters are 9% more likely to have never heard of it.
#42 Fiction vs. Non-Fiction- Obama supporters are more likely to prefer reading fiction books (#230), while Romney supporters like non-fiction. Who knew? Romney supporters are more likely to say that they don’t read books.
#43 Hair and Eye Color- A quick way to tell an Obama supporter from a Romney supporter is to look at their face. People with black hair AND people with red hair are most likely to support Obama (#234). People with gray hair or white hair are more likely to support Romney (see: Age). People with brown hair are split down the middle. Next, look them in the eye (#250). If they have blue or hazel eyes, they are more likely to support Romney. If they have brown eyes, it’s probably Obama.
#44 Cat or Dog- If Obama wants to appeal to his supporters, he should have a couple cats in his campaign commercials (#237). Dog Lovers or people with no pets lean toward Romney.
#45 Morning Person or Night Owl- Do you like to stay up late (#244)? Then there’s a better chance you support Obama. Wake up early every morning? We bet you support Romney.
Keep watching our blog. Soon we are going to publish a similar analysis of Independent voters.