Ads and Debates Swayed Florida Voters, Exit Polls Find

Jan 31, 2012 6:29pm

Preliminary exit poll results from the Florida primary indicate that campaign advertising and the presidential debates weighed heavily on voters’ minds as they headed to the polls today.

The campaign ads that ran in the state were mostly  negative. About four in 10 voters said such advertising was an important factor in their vote, reports ABC News’ Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates.

That number – roughly 40 percent –  is about the same as what was seen in New Hampshire.

Also key were the debates. “Around two-thirds of Florida voters say the debates were an important factor in their vote in today’s primary, about the same as in South Carolina, where Gingrich benefited from his pre-primary debate performances,” Langer reports.

Here are some other factoids from the preliminary results, per Langer:

“Four in 10 voters in preliminary exit poll results said they chose their candidate before the start of this month — many more early deciders than in South  Carolina, and similar to the number in New Hampshire. On the flipside, only about a quarter decided in Florida in the last few days – fewer than half the number of later deciders in South Carolina, 55 percent.”

“Nearly half of voters pick electability – the candidate who has the best chance to defeat Barack Obama – as the most important candidate attribute – about as many as chose it in South Carolina, and more than in either New Hampshire or Iowa. That’s far ahead of the roughly two in 10 who care most about a candidate with the right experience or one with ‘strong moral character.’ And, after a race in which ideological credentials were a sharp focus, only about one in 10 think being a true conservative is most important.”

“As a further indication of his general appeal, basic favorability toward  Romney as a person far outpaces that of Gingrich. About three-quarters of Florida primary-goers have a favorable opinion of Romney, while only slightly more than half say so about Gingrich.”

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