WASHINGTON -- Democratic voters on Super Tuesday were anxious about the economy, critical of foreign trade, and very focused on beating President Bush in November, according to exit polls. The trade issue played a role in the competitive race in Georgia, where two-thirds of voters said they thought foreign trade was more likely to take jobs in their state.
That group split between John Edwards, who has made trade a centerpiece of his campaign, and John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner.
In Vermont, former governor Howard Dean ran strong among all groups, especially among the four in 10 who said it was most important to have a candidate who stands up for what he believes -- a traditional area of strength for the onetime front-runner who dropped out of the race two weeks ago.
About a third of the voters in Super Tuesday states said the economy and jobs were the top issues in the election, far outpacing other issues such as health care and the war with Iraq, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press.
A majority of voters, about six in 10, said they were convinced foreign trade is more likely to take jobs from their states, while only two in 10 said they thought foreign trade would add jobs in their states.
The Democratic candidates talked a great deal about trade and jobs in the past week, especially after Edwards made it a centerpiece of his campaign. Kerry responded by talking about steps he would take to make trade agreements more fair.
The exit polls were conducted in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Caucuses were held yesterday in Minnesota, but no exit poll was conducted there.
About a third of all voters in the Super Tuesday states put the highest priority on a candidate's ability to beat Bush.
Other qualities viewed as important by voters in earlier primaries and caucuses did not fare as well, such as a candidate who cares about people like them and a candidate who stands up for what he believes.
Economic concerns were also reflected in the way people viewed their own financial situations. Almost four in 10 said they were worse off financially than they were four years ago, and almost that many said their financial situation was about the same.
As they have in previous contests, most Democratic voters were either angry or dissatisfied with Bush.
About half of voters surveyed said they were angry at the president and another third said they were dissatisfied with him, according to exit polls conducted for the AP and the TV networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
About a quarter of the voters surveyed said they once planned to vote for Dean.Most people -- about six in 10 voters -- made up their minds about whom to vote for more than a week ago. Four in five of the Super Tuesday voters said they would be satisfied if Kerry was the nominee, while almost six in 10 said they would be satisfied if Edwards was the nominee.
The exit polls showed varied opinions about gay marriage among the Democratic primary voters, depending on the state. Almost four in 10 of all voters said they thought gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, three in 10 said they should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry, while almost that many said there should be no legal recognition of gay couples.
Almost half in California and Vermont said they thought gay couples should be allowed to marry, while only about one in six felt that way in Georgia.