Economy Casts Shadow Over Super Tuesday

Exit Polls: Economic woes cited as top campaign issue for Dem, GOP voters.


Feb. 6, 2008— -- Sen. Barack Obama is narrowly winning among white men, with 49 percent support to Sen. Hillary Clinton's 44 percent, combined exit poll data from all of today's primaries show.

Obama won the votes of white men in six states, and tied Clinton among white men in two others; the most notable is his huge 59-33 percent advantage among white men in California.

Clinton, by contrast, won the votes of white women nationally by a 20-point margin, 58 to 38 percent.

Obama's won 82 percent of African-American voters, while Hispanics nationally are going 61-37 percent for Clinton. Unlike whites, Clinton is winning Hispanic men and women alike.

And dark economic clouds cast a shadow over today's primaries with voters in both parties and across the country weighed down more by financial concerns than by any other issues.

As it was in states that have already voted over the last month, the economy has been by far the most important issue to voters today. The preliminary results of our national exit poll indicate the economy is the top issue for Democrats and Republican voters alike.

Democrats — top issue:economy 47 percent; ear in Iraq 30; health care 19.

Republicans — top issue: economy 38 percent; immigration 24; war in Iraq 20; terrorism 15.

In the Connecticut GOP race, which ABC News projects John McCain to win, the top two issues for Republican voters were the economy, followed distantly by the Iraq war. McCain ran equally well on these issues, while Mitt Romney won voters who cited illegal immigration as the most important issue in their vote.

Just six months ago, the war on Iraq was the biggest worry. Since then, the economy has taken a turn for the worse at the same time violence in Iraq has abated.

Back in September, only 11 percent of Americans considered the economy to be the top issue and 35 percent were most concerned about Iraq. Those numbers have flipped in our latest ABC News/Washington Post telephone poll with 39 percent now pegging the economy as the most important issue and only 11 percent citing Iraq.

Change continues to be a powerful draw for Democrats, who rank the ability to bring about change their top attribute for a candidate by 2 to -1 over other concerns.

Democrats — most important attribute: bring needed change 52 percent; best experience 23; empathy 13; best chance to win 9.

In a close Missouri Democratic race, change is the primary attribute voters are looking for in a candidate, as has been the case in earlier states, with just over half saying so, and Obama beat Clinton 2-1 among them.

Change has long been Obama's strong suit. But about two in 10 say they're looking mainly for experience, and Clinton dominates here as in earlier states, taking just over nine in 10 of these voters, her strongest showing among "experience" voters so far this season.

Republicans by a wide margin cite "shared values" as the most important attribute in a candidate

Republicans — most important attribute: shares my values 44 percent; best experience 25; says what he believes 22; best chance to win 7.

The bulk of Republican voters today consider themselves conservatives — they account for 65 percent of the GOP electorate.

Just over three-quarters (77 percent) of GOP voters today are party regulars as opposed to Independents.

But nationally, in all primaries, McCain is losing conservatives by 11 points — and they account for 64 percent of all GOP voters today. Conservatives are breaking 42 percent for Romney, 31 percent for McCain, 21 percent for Huckabee.

In many states he's come close enough among conservatives to have moderates carry him home. But it's a reminder nonetheless of the challenges McCain faces in the party's base.

Among "very" conservative Republicans, moreover, McCain get gust 19 percent to Romney's 48 and Huckabee's 25.

The difference for McCain — moderates — about a quarter of GOP voters (26 percent) break 52 percent for McCain, 24 percent for Romney, 13 percent for Huckabee.

Also on the Republican side, evangelicals account for about four in 10 of the party's voters, and a larger share than that in some Southern states.

In a close Republican race in Missouri, Huckabee is doing best among evangelicals, who account half of Missouri Republicans, and among voters who want a candidate who shares their values.

The evangelical turnout in Alabama is a bigger evangelical vote seen tonight or previously -- and they turned out for Huckabee in that state. They accounted for a remarkable 78 percent of the Republican primary voters there, and Huckabee won them by 17 points.

A snapshot of several states offers a glimpse into minority voters' choices.

Black voters in Alabama made up a record-setting half of the primary day electorate, and their overwhelming support for Barack Obama made up for Hillary Clinton's strength among both white women and white men in these preliminary exit poll results. Black voters made up 50 percent of the electorate — more than double their share in 1992.

For Missouri Democrats, black turnout is about where it's been in the past, just under two in 10 voters, and Obama took over seven in 10 of them. But Clinton did well with white women, winning them by 57-38 percent to stay in a close contest.

In New York, Clinton ate into Obama's strongest voter group, claiming 39 percent of all votes cast by black voters in that state. That's his smallest share of blacks, and Clinton's highest, in any state voting today.

Clinton also won Hispanic as well as white voters in New Jersey, while Obama prevailed among blacks.

Black voters surged to the polls in Georgia and delivered more than eight in 10 of their votes to Barack Obama, lifting him to an easy victory over Hillary Clinton there. Exit poll results indicated that blacks accounted for just over half the voters in the Georgia Democratic primary — 52 percent, a record high for Blacks' share of the vote in the state, and reminiscent of their turnout in South Carolina.

However, the race was not only about the black vote — Obama also came close to Clinton among white men in Georgia (49-46 percent, Clinton-Obama), indicating he has held his own in a group (Southern white men) who had formerly appeared to favor the departed John Edwards. Clinton, meanwhile, easily won among white women in Georgia.

Women continue to make up a disproportionate share of voters, 57 percent nationally in these preliminary results.

They made the difference for Clinton in New Jersey; she won women by 54-44 percent, losing men by about the same margin. But women were the bigger group, accounting for 58 percent of voters.

The sizable gender gap in Massachusetts showed more men supporting Obama and more women for Clinton. But Clinton won women by a slightly larger margin — and as in other states there were more of them: 58 percent of voters in Massachusetts were women, and that made the difference for Clinton.

Young voters, those under age 30, are 12 percent of voters; seniors account for a bigger share, 22 percent.

In the close Missouri Dem race, younger voters, as in earlier states, strongly supported Obama, by just under 2-1. But Clinton nearly doubled Obama's support among older voters , who made up over a quarter of voters, 58-32 percent.

There was a massive generation gap in New Jersey, with Obama winning young voters by 30 points, Clinton winning seniors by the same margin.

In Alabama, Clinton won seniors by a substantial margin, but Obama won every other age group. Half of Alabama Democrats were looking for a candidate who would bring change, and Obama dominated this group, garnering roughly seven in ten of their votes.

Barack Obama easily won his home state by more than 2-1 over Hillary Clinton, claiming substantial majorities of virtually every major voting group in the Illinois Democratic primary. Preliminary exit polling results suggest Obama claimed six in 10 votes cast by white women, who have been Clinton's most solid voting group in the primaries, and a slightly larger proportion of white men.

Illinois Democratic primary preliminary results show Clinton with 38 percent of white women, Obama with 61.

Obama also narrowly defeated Clinton among Hispanic voters, winning Hispanic men but losing Hispanic women to Clinton. Nearly all black voters -- nine in 10 -- voted for Obama.

In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney rode a wave of popularity, generating strong support across the board in his home state. Nearly three-quarters of voters expressed a positive opinion of the former governor.

Opinion of Romney was 74 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable.

Romney led John McCain by a wide margin among those who considered the economy their top concern. The only issue voters won by McCain are those most concerned about the war in Iraq. McCain did well — 48 percent to Romney's 42 percent — among the moderates who made up about four in 10 voters. But even more — 52 percent — considered themselves conservative and Romney won them by a fourfold margin.

Additionally, Mike Huckabee won big in his home state over John McCain, by more than 2-1. Nearly nine in ten voters have a favorable opinion of the former governor, and he nearly triples McCain's support among them.

Clinton took Arkansas in the Democratic race. Both Clinton and her husband remain hugely popular among Democrats in Arkansas — paving her way.

She also won a comfortable victory in her home state, beating Barack Obama on the strength of strong support among women as well as claiming virtually every vote cast by those who most valued "experience" in a candidate.

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