October 24th, 2008
04:31 PM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Age may play bigger role than race on Election Day


A woman in Paris looks at a giant photo of the U.S. presidential candidates.(Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national survey suggests that race won't be a major factor in the outcome of the presidential election.

Seven out of ten Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Survey released Friday say that the race of the candidates will not be a factor in their vote for president this year. That 70 percent figure is up 9 points from July, when the same question was asked. Only 5 percent of those polled say race will be the single most important factor in their choice for president, with 11 percent saying it's one of several important factors, and 13 percent indicating race will be a minor factor in their vote.

Barack Obama, if elected, would be the first black American to win the White House.

So how will race affect the results on election day?

"First, don't assume that everyone who says that race is factor in their votes are voting against Obama,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

He adds that some voters are choosing Obama because of his race - and that many of those who say that race will influence their votes are Republicans who were highly unlikely to vote for any Democrat this year.

"By one complicated measure, the number of votes Obama may lose due to his race is roughly equal to the number who will vote for him because he is black. And both those numbers appear to be small, possibly just one percentage point in each direction," says Holland.

One question that often comes up when discussing polling regarding race is whether those being polled are telling the truth. Holland says that the survey results should be taken with a grain of salt: “ race is a complicated topic and polls may not reveal each respondent's true feelings on this hot-button issue,” says Holland.

Nonetheless, the poll suggests that race may largely be an influence on Americans who aren't typical Democratic voters, and that race works both for and against Obama in roughly equal proportions.

What about the age question? If elected, 72-year-old John McCain would be the oldest person to be inaugurated as president.

Roughly half of those polled say the age of the candidates will affect their vote, a number essentially unchanged since July. Three percent said age would be the most important factor in determining their presidential pick, with 19 percent saying it would be one of several important factors, and 25 percent saying it would be a minor factor.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted October 17-19, with 1,058 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Wake UP America

    First of all Obama is NOT Black. He is bi-racial. Half white – HALF Black. Second of all, does this poll really matter....?

    October 24, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. Debby

    Where did you poll CNN the colleges.

    October 24, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. vote! OBAMA-BIDEN NOV.4th

    i believe the main reason age will play a bigger role in this election, more than anything else is because mccains choice of a vp scares everyone to death. VOTE OBAMA-BIDEN

    October 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. A Well Educated Woman

    I think it is more of McCain picking a "no way do I know what I am doing" Palin. We have all mulled over the idea that if McCain goes down with a health issue, where does it put this country? In the hands of a woman who says I am qualified because I can see Russia with a pair of binoculars? That is why many have any issue with this pair.
    I am voting for OBAMA, not based on race, age or because he is a man. I am voting for OBAMA because issues like education, health care(I pay $1500 a month), ecomomy, foreign policy (he is qualified) matter to me. And what he can bring to Washington with the movement of the 21st century.

    October 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. Steven

    Age wouldn't have been as much of an issue if McCain would have picked a competent running mate.

    October 24, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  6. Joel

    C'mon - do you really think people will admit that race is a factor? Of course it will be a factor. But hopefully it won't be a big enough factor to sway the election.

    October 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. C A

    I keep reading these different articles, comments, pundit opinions but none really matter. Obama is going to win this election. So let's get it over with as many Amercians are getting tired of the election and the spin.

    October 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  8. Ben Obamacrat

    Dear Nighingale - please don't hold your breath for McLame's secret plans. He don't got none.

    October 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Rick CT

    Sometime early in the process, AARP had made a statement saying the age shouldn't be a factor, but instead decisions should be on issues. With their favorite candidate seemingly about the win, it's funny that AARP has not reiterated their age stand for a while now. It's a good thing their discounts are worth more than the price of a membership.

    October 24, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Joanna

    Of course age plays a major roll in this election. John McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate, is 72 years old with a history of cancer; and he's not looking so good, let me tell you. His chubby jowls, to me, suggests the use of prednisone. So, as far as I'm concerned, a vote for John is a vote for Sarah Palin for President.
    AND I WILL NOT VOTE FOR Sarah Palin!

    October 24, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Colleen

    you know Nightengale, you have been singing this same tune everywhere...I'm impressed you seem to get posted when no one else can...could it be you are laying in wait to spread your "on the fence" fairy-tale...give it up closet Republican...you will vote McCain no matter what...

    October 24, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. Ron

    Wouldn't it be great if we truly had an independent minded black candidate in the presidential race? Last time I checked Sen. Obama was as much white as he is black (one black parent, one white parent) and a sitting Washington insider. Have you seen the pictures of his grandmother, who he says was so influential in his lfe? The true representative of change in this race is Gov. Palin who would bring a fresh, down to earth, back to basics approach to the exectutive branch.

    October 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. j

    I find McCain's age, especially with him picking Palin as a running mate, as a real turn off. Obama's race doesn't bother me – I voted for him but I do believe there will be people that won't vote for him because of his race. I hope racism won't be a factor but after the last 2 presidential elections, I don't have a lot of faith in the intelligence of the American voter.

    October 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Billy

    It wouldn't be as big a deal if McCain had chosen a qualified person as his VP.

    October 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. truth hurts

    why bring up race and age hello

    October 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. SH

    Age may not have been as much as an issue before, but as soon as he picked Palin, it was definitely an issue. VP is one thing, but if SHE became president, we'd be in a lot of trouble.

    October 24, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Veteran for Obama

    Age as a factor is greatly augmented by McCaine saddling himself with a dangerous and unqualified successor should he fail to complete his term of office.
    Sarah Pailin admittedly lets her husband influence her political decisions. He can see Russia from the back porch, too. My fear is that they my try to get a better look through a rifle scope.

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Vegas

    I hate to think race has anything to do with an election these days... but I'm wise enough to know it's true...

    I vote on Issues, Character, Leadership, etc...

    Good luck to both... and I hope that either way... the country can become less polarized... there was a lot of negative in this campaign from both sides... and by both loyalists...

    in the end... I just hope everyone can cross the aisle... but I'm not very optimistic about that

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. ConsiderThis, FL

    Age should absolutely play a major role in this election because if John McCain is elected President and, God forbid, something happens that opens the door for Sarah Palin to be President, this country would definitely implode. Sarah Palin sets the new standard for UNPREPAREDNESS for the position that she may obtain because of John McCain's SELF-FIRST choice of a running mate. I pray that the American people will use their vote to AVOID ABSOLUTE DISASTER (IF PALIN BECOMES PRESIDENT). Please, my fellow Americans, please don't do that. I beg you.

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Roberto

    Nightengale: Peace with honor; Now where have I heard that before?

    And why would we want to be extracted from Afganistan when that is where the real war on terror is (if it can be in any geographical location)? SOunds to me like you're trying to pull election miracles out of thin air.

    Obama all the way.

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. Struggling American

    Hey Nightingale, doesn't sound like you are on any fence, that you stand on the side of McCain. Fine, but I think you will be waiting a long time to hear McCain say anything about his plan for Afghanistan. He still thinks and has always backed the idea that IRAQ is responsible for 9/11. But gees, where did the Taliban come from? Afghanistan! And he won't budge with anyting there, believes there is no reason for Afghanistan to be a major hot topic.

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. Bill from Fairport, NY

    Why do people and the media keep calling Barack "black". He's not an African-American "black" man. He's a dark complected American man with a little African heritage. I happen to be of German descent but I certainly am not what I would call a German-American. Those titles should be reserved for someone who originates in one country and emigrates to the US becoming an American citizen.

    October 24, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Jonfeld

    Nixon had a secret plan for victory too.

    McCarthy had a secret list of communists.

    Maybe we need lest secret documents.

    October 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  24. Dawn

    well DUH!, he could kick the bucket and that means Caribou Barbie will be President of the United States of America and rewrite the U.S Constitution, she has been saying that there will be some improvements, like birth control, abortions, discrimination, remember gays and lesbian fought for their rights and freedom of religon we will have our own witch hunter praying the homosexual or wiccan or pagan out of us or we will be burned at the stake! Blessed Be Gov. Palin...

    Protect our freedoms...

    Go Obama/Biden08/12..

    P.S. I would take Biden's Gaffs over Palin insults..

    October 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. james in s.c.

    sorry nightingale,
    mccain is going to get a huge backlash now cuz ashley todd (mccain's backer) told a lie about being beat up by huge black guy, show ya repubs are racist and facist as palin.

    October 24, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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