5 groups with a serious stake on Election Day

Voters stand in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections just before it opened for early voting, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in Cincinnati.

For some voters, the all-too-regular gridlock in Washington may make it seem like the occupant in the White House can't bring about real change. For others, however, Election Day could have a very clear and direct impact on their lives. Here's a look at five groups of people with a substantial stake in the presidential election.

1. Defense industry employees

There are few differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney as distinct as the difference between their plans for the military. Mr. Obama has already started implementing a plan to make the military smaller and more flexible. Romney, by contrast, wants to increase defense spending. The choice could have a significant impact on the aerospace and defense industry, which employs millions of Americans.

According to research from the consulting firm Deloitte, the U.S. aerospace and defense industry directly employed 1.05 million workers in 2010. More than 3.5 million U.S. jobs overall were either directly or indirectly related to aerospace and defense -- not including skilled workers employed by the federal government or airlines. California had the most workers associated with the defense industry in 2010, with 162,162 direct industry employees and 641,378 people directly or indirectly associated with it. After California, the states with the most defense employees were Washington, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Connecticut and Virginia.

These people work for companies like Advex, a defense contractor in Hampton, Va., that makes precision parts for aircraft carriers, or Electric Boat, which employs engineers, welders, carpenters and others to build nuclear attack submarines in Connecticut.

This sector would surely benefit from a Romney administration. The Republican candidate says he wants to set defense spending at a minimum level of four percent of the Gross Domestic Product and would build 15 new warships every year, compared to the president's nine. According to independent estimates, Romney would increase defense spending by more than $2 trillion dollars over 10 years.

"We have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut a military budget," Romney said in the Oct. 22 presidential debate.

By comparison, Mr. Obama has already cut projected Defense Department spending by $487 billion over a decade, allowing only for growth with inflation -- in other words, he is essentially keeping defense spending flat. Mr. Obama in January unveiled a new defense strategy for a smaller, more flexible military force, which he said will prepare the nation for the threats of the future while restoring balance between the defense budget and domestic spending. "The size and structure of our military and defense budget have to be driven by a strategy--not the other way around," Mr. Obama said then.

While the election will certainly impact the industry, the biggest hit could come before the next presidential term. Defense cuts totaling around $500 billion could go into effect January 1 unless Congress acts to avert them.