Democratic Voters Seeking 'Change' in N.H.

The desire for change is clearly in the unseasonably warm New Hampshire air — at least among Democrats voting today.

Preliminary exit poll results find so far that more than half of the Democratic voters in today's primary say they're most interested in a candidate who can bring about needed change — a mantle all the candidates have sought since last week's Iowa caucuses.

Much further down the list, about two in 10 Democrats are looking for experience, and fewer still want a candidate who cares most about people like them. Even fewer Democrats are picking a candidate based on who has the best chance to win in November. Just one in 10 cited that as their top concern.

The proportion of independents turning out to vote in today's primary would be considered staggering in other states. But in "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire, it's not even business as usual. Just over four in 10 voters on the Democratic side in New Hampshire's primary are independents, compared with 48 percent in 2004, and a record 50 percent in 1992.

On the Republican side, it's a similar story. Preliminary results indicate about four in 10 are independents, similar to the previous high of 42 percent in 2000.

Keep in mind, on both sides, that's just a proportion of the turnout. More independents may have voted than in the past, but they made up a similar chunk of an apparently larger electorate this time.

While Democrats clearly have a taste for change — and it's no wonder, given that nearly everyone expressed negative feelings about the Bush administration — Republicans have a more complex palate.

Just under four in 10 are looking mainly for a candidate who shares their values. Slightly fewer, three in 10, want someone who says what he believes. And a quarter are looking for the most experienced candidate. As on the Democratic side, the fewest — just under one in 10 Republicans — are too concerned right now about who's best suited to win the general election.

Presented with a bounty of candidates to consider from both parties, many New Hampshire voters took their time. Nearly four in 10 voters — both Republicans and Democrats — say they made up their minds in the last three days (including today). That's greater than the number of late deciders in Iowa — 20 percent in the Democratic caucuses, and 30 percent among Iowa Republicans.

Helping those fence-sitters were the recent debates. Three-quarters of Democrats and Republicans alike rated the forums as important in their vote in today's primary.

Preliminary results don't indicate higher turnout among young voters, at least not as a share of the electorate. The preliminary exit poll results indicate that about one in six Democratic voters has been under age 30; that's similar to what it was in 2004 (14 percent) and its peak, 17 percent, in 1992. Turnout among young voters was up in the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Instead, in New Hampshire, turnout among seniors in the Democratic race looks to be up from 2004, to nearly two in 10.

In the Republican race, voters under age 30 account for fewer voters than on the Democratic side — just over one in 10. The previous high was 15 percent, in 1992.

While evangelicals were a huge story in Iowa's Republican caucuses, they're a much smaller factor in New Hampshire — accounting for two in 10 voters, compared with 60 percent in Iowa.

In these preliminary results, liberals account for nearly six in 10 voters in the Democratic race — a new high, if it holds. On the Republican side, conservatives account for more than half of all voters — about their customary share.

Republicans and Democrats do agree about some things. Nearly all Democratic voters, and almost eight in 10 Republicans, are very, or somewhat worried about the economy.

It follows that, among top issues on the Democratic side, just under four in 10 name the economy as their biggest concern, three in 10 cite the war in Iraq, or health care. On the Republican side, the economy is the most cited concern, mentioned by three in 10. A quarter cite the war in Iraq, and about two in 10 say either immigration or terrorism.

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