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Economy is driving issue for Democrats, polls show

Clinton backed by white women and older voters

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Associated Press / March 5, 2008

WASHINGTON - The economy was a major concern for Democratic voters in yesterday's primaries, according to preliminary data from exit polls.

In Ohio, six in 10 voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country, more than said so in any of the 25 other Democratic primaries with exit polls this year. More than half of Rhode Island Democrats and nearly as high a proportion in Texas picked the economy as the top issue out of three choices.

In Vermont, almost as many voters picked Iraq as picked the economy - the first Democratic contest this year in which Iraq was considered about as important as the economy.

As in other Democratic primaries this year, few voters yesterday viewed the nation's economy positively. But Texas Democrats were relatively optimistic, with one in seven saying the economy is in good condition - as high a proportion as in any other state.

A whopping eight in 10 voters in Ohio's Democratic primary said international trade takes more jobs from the state than it creates. In the other three states voting yesterday, the split was closer to six in 10.

About one in three Ohio Democratic voters were from union households, a group that has leaned slightly toward Hillary Clinton so far this year.

Like Ohio, Rhode Island has lost many manufacturing jobs, and Democratic voters there seemed skeptical about the benefits of global trade. More than half of those polled said foreign trade takes jobs from the state. Fewer than one in five believed that international trade creates jobs.

Sources of support

  • While Barack Obama has made significant inroads among whites and women, Clinton still won the support of her base in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. She won among white women and older voters in those states, while Obama won his usual strong victory among blacks.

  • White men have been a key swing group in this year's Democratic primaries. Clinton won the white male vote in Ohio, tied with Obama for their votes in Texas, and came close in Rhode Island. Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the votes of Hispanics in Texas. Blacks were one in five voters in Ohio and Texas, while Hispanics were nearly a third of voters in Texas.

  • One-fifth of white Ohio voters said race was an important issue to their vote, and those who did voted eight in 10 for Clinton. That compares with the one in five Democrats in Ohio who said gender was important, and they voted six in 10 for Clinton.

  • Obama's exit poll results in Ohio showed that he held onto groups that have supported him from early on, including blacks, young people, and college graduates.

  • Obama's strong showing in Vermont cut across numerous groups that Clinton usually wins, including whites, older people, and women.

  • One in seven Obama voters viewed Clinton as more qualified to be commander in chief; fewer than one in 20 Clinton voters said that about Obama.

    Independents a big factor
    In Ohio, Republicans voting in the Democratic primary voted six in 10 for Obama, while self-described independents split between Clinton and Obama. In Texas, Republicans and independents voting in the Democratic primary split about evenly between Clinton and Obama. In Rhode Island and Vermont, independents went mostly for Obama.

    The primaries in Ohio, Texas, and Vermont were open to all voters. Rhode Island's registered independents could choose which party's primary to vote in.

    Exit polls results were based on partial statewide samples of voters in 40 precincts each in Ohio and Texas and 20 each in Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as a phone survey of early voters in Texas.

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