EXIT POLL: Critical Clinton Wins

Latinos, lunch bucket voters help Clinton to critical wins.


March 4, 2008 — -- Latinos, working-class voters, women and late deciders helped Hillary Clinton push back against Barack Obama's recent winning streak, while some Texas and Ohio Republicans fired a warning shot at John McCain even as he clinched his party's presidential nomination.

The Democratic races in these states were more closely fought, with demographics -- more Latinos in Texas, more lunch bucket voters in Ohio -- assisting Clinton after her string of losses since Feb. 9.

She also did well with late deciders, winning those who made up their minds in the final few days by 18 points in Ohio and 23 in Texas.

Latinos in Texas accounted for a record 34 percent of voters, up from 24 percent in 2004 -- second only this cycle to New Mexico -- and they backed Clinton by 67-31 percent, crucial to her fortunes.

Obama hit back with 83 percent support from African-Americans, two in 10 Texas voters. And while Clinton won white women in Texas by 21 points, the two candidates split white men evenly.

Ohio was different; there Clinton won white men, a swing group in many Democratic primaries this year, by 58-39 percent.

That partly reflected the working-class nature of the state: Obama won white men who've been graduated from college, albeit by narrower-than-usual 52-45 percent; as elsewhere, Clinton won white men who don't have a college degree, here by a wide 66-31 percent.

And those lacking a college education made up a greater share of white men in Ohio, 60 percent, than in Texas, 48 percent, or all primaries to date, also 48 percent.

While the theme of change continued to resonate in Ohio and Texas, it wasn't by as wide a margin as in most previous primaries.

The ability to "bring needed change" beat "experience" as the most important quality in a candidate by a 17-point margin in Ohio and by 15 points in Texas, 43-28 percent. Both had among the fewest to pick change as the top attribute in any primary this year.

It mattered, given the correlation of these views and vote preferences.

Obama won "change" voters by more than 2-1 margins in Texas and Ohio alike, while those more concerned with experience went for Clinton almost unanimously in both states.

If a contrast were needed, the two smaller states voting Tuesday, Vermont and Rhode Island, provided it.

Obama won across demographic groups in Vermont, beating Clinton among senior citizens as well as among white women, two of her mainstays.

There his change theme prevailed over experience by more than a 30-point margin, at the high end in primaries to date. In Rhode Island, though, Clinton won easily; there change beat experience by just 10 points, less than anywhere but Arkansas, and late deciders again went heavily to Clinton, by 62-37 percent.

McCain lost few groups in Texas, but they were telling ones in terms of his challenges in the Republican base: the most religious and most conservative voters, evangelicals and those looking mainly for a candidate who shares their values, all backed Mike Huckabee.

McCain was comparatively weak among those same groups in Ohio. But Texas was tougher to him. There he lost values voters -- the top candidate attribute in both states -- by a wide 59-30 percent. And in Texas a substantial 44 percent in preliminary exit poll results classified him as "not conservative enough."

As noted, there were challenges within McCain's broader victory.

In Texas, Huckabee won those who attend church more than once a week, 28 percent of GOP voters, by 27 points, 60-33 percent. Evangelicals, a hefty 60 percent of Texas Republican voters, went 49-42 percent for Huckabee. And Huckabee won "very" conservative voters, a third of the electorate, by 12 points.

But McCain came back with broad leads among "somewhat" conservative and moderate Republicans. He won non-evangelicals by a huge margin, 63-21 percent.

He prevailed among less-frequent churchgoers, and won 82 percent of voters focused on the No. 2 attribute, experience. He also beat Huckabee by more than 2-1, 65-27 percent, among senior citizens, compared to with a dead heat among GOP voters younger than 65, 44-43.

In Ohio McCain did better; he won "very" conservative voters, 51-41 percent.

And McCain came closer to Huckabee than usual among Ohio evangelicals, Huckabee's mainstay, while winning non-evangelicals by nearly 50 points. But as in Texas, a candidate who "shares my values" was the most important attribute in Ohio, and Huckabee won them there, too, albeit by a closer 48-40 percent.

At 19 percent, African-Americans didn't increase their turnout in Texas, and it was well down from their 34 percent share in 1984, when Jesse Jackson ran. In Ohio, though, blacks' 18 percent share was up from 14 percent in 2004; that aided Obama, albeit not enough.

Women increased their turnout in both states -- to 59 percent in Ohio and 57 percent in Texas, up from 52 and 53 percent, respectively, in 2004. And Clinton won white women by more than 2-1 in Ohio, as well as by 60-39 percent in Texas.

The upscale/downscale division among white voters was striking. In both states Obama won college-educated white men, while Clinton won those who don't have degrees. In both states Clinton won college-educated and non-college-educated white women alike, but won less-educated women by broader margins.

As previously there were huge generation gaps.

Clinton again easily won seniors, by 73-26 percent in Ohio and 67-30 percent in Texas, while voters under 30 went for Obama by 16 points in Texas and 26 points in Ohio.

In both states turnout among young voters was up from 2004, by seniors, down.

Seniors accounted for 13 percent of voters in Texas and 14 percent in Ohio, fewer than in most states this year. Interestingly, in Texas Obama came close to Clinton among Latinos under 30, losing them by 7 points, while she swamped him among older Latinos.

Also in both states, Clinton prevailed among mainline Democrats. Obama approximately tied her among independents and Republicans voting in both open Democratic primaries.

The economy was the top issue in Texas and Ohio alike, and most strikingly so in Ohio, where 59 percent of Democrats ranked it as the single most important issue, second only to Michigan in the importance of the economy to Democratic voters this year.

Almost eight in 10 in Ohio were worried about their family's finances, 38 percent were "very" worried about it and voters there almost unanimously said the national economy is in bad shape. Slightly fewer in Texas were "very" worried about their own finances, 33 percent.

The exit poll indicated a smaller-than-previous turnout by union voters in Ohio -- 34 percent were from union households, down from 44 percent in 2004.

At the same time it also found broad anti-trade sentiment: Eight in 10 said that trade with other countries takes more jobs from Ohio than it creates. Anti-trade sentiment was lower in Texas, with 57 percent there saying trade takes jobs.

Whatever their candidate preference, Democratic voters had some greater criticism for Clinton than for Obama on negative campaigning -- 54 percent in Ohio and 52 percent in Texas said Clinton attacked unfairly, while fewer than four in 10 both states said Obama did.

However, more said Clinton, rather than Obama, had offered "clear and detailed plans" to address the country's problems.