EXIT POLLS: The Race Factor in West Virginia

Two-thirds of whites who cite race would not vote for Obama in general election.

ByABC News
May 13, 2008, 10:17 AM

May 13, 2008 — -- A confluence of groups inclined toward Hillary Clinton gave her an easy victory in the West Virginia primary, with less-educated, lower-income whites predominating in this Southern state.

In a trouble sign for delegate-leader Barack Obama, barely half said they would vote for him in November if he is the party's nominee.

Racially motivated voting ran somewhat higher than elsewhere: Two in 10 whites said the race of the candidate was a factor in their vote, second only to Mississippi. Just 31 percent of those voters said they'd support Obama against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, fewer than in other primaries where the question's been asked.

Indeed, as noted, among all West Virginia primary voters, only 49 percent said they would support Obama vs. McCain, far fewer than elsewhere and one of many signs of antipathy toward Obama in the state.

Among Clinton's supporters, just 38 percent said they would vote for Obama against McCain; nearly as many said they would back McCain; and the rest said they would sit it out.

Still, there was room for some criticism of Clinton.

Even in her broad victory, 58 percent of voters said she had attacked her opponent unfairly; fewer, 51 percent, said Obama had attacked unfairly.

Notably, among those who said Clinton had attacked unfairly, 57 percent voted for her anyway.

Bringing "needed change," Obama's trademark, again was the most-desired candidate trait, picked by 46 percent in West Virginia as most important -- near its level across all primaries to date.

But here Obama only lost those "change" voters to Clinton, 50-44 percent, after winning them by a wide margin elsewhere. Clinton swamped him among voters focused on other attributes.

It also was a state where minds have been made up for some time: Seventy-five percent said they'd decided on their candidate more than a week ago, in the high end for early deciders this year.