For this year's Memorial Day, Gallup released a new survey that shows Mitt Romney with a double-digit lead over President Obama among the nation’s veterans. Fifty-eight percent support Romney for president, compared to 34 percent who think Obama should be reelected. The Obama team says that it wants to increase its share of the veteran vote this time around — and has begun to emphasize administration measures for veterans — but this poll shows that the campaign is in for a difficult fight as it attempts to boost its support among the group.
Obama's deficit makes sense when you consider the demographic composition of veterans. For starters, most veterans are men, and the percentage of men who are veterans increases as you move through age brackets. Only 9 percent of men ages 18 to 29 are veterans, compared to 57 percent of men ages 70 to 79 and 73 percent of men ages 80 to 89. Older men are among those groups most likely to vote Republican, and among veterans, they show the strongest support for Romney — with two-thirds supporting the former Massachusetts governor. Of course, we shouldn’t let that understate the degree to which younger veterans are also opposed to Obama; 59 percent of veterans under 50 support Romney, which exceeds the overall total. The veterans most likely to support Obama are women — 47 percent support the president, compared to 42 percent who favor Romney.
The most interesting outcome of Gallup’s survey is the comparison to non-veterans. Among women who aren’t veterans, the difference is moderate — support for Obama increases to 49 percent. By contrast, the difference for men is huge; Romney’s 22-point advantage with veteran men becomes an even match among non-veteran men, 45 percent to 46 percent. Indeed, as Gallup points out, Romney’s advantage with veterans accounts for most of his advantage among men writ large. Which is to say that if Obama can improve his numbers with veterans — a tough proposition — he can cut into a key base of support for the Republican nominee.