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FNC March 2 Exit Poll Analysis

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) claimed victory tonight in eight of the nine states holding primaries; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who suspended his campaign, was victorious in his home state. After a poor showing tonight, notably in Georgia, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) is expected to announce Wednesday that he is quitting the race.

Exit poll highlights from a few key states are below:

California Highlights

Edwards has had trouble securing minority voters’ support and in diverse California this hurt him.  Hispanic voters accounted for 16 percent of the California Democratic primary electorate. Hispanics favored Kerry 70 percent to 15 percent for Edwards. Blacks were eight percent of the voters and they split 55 percent for Kerry, 17 percent for Edwards and 16 percent for Rev. Al Sharpton (search).  Asians made up four percent of the electorate, going 60 percent for Kerry and 25 percent to Edwards. Among whites, 59 percent supported Kerry, 24 percent Edwards.

In many states, Edwards enjoyed strong support from Democratic primary voters who call themselves independents.  However, in California, independents (22 percent of the voters) strongly favored Kerry — 49 percent to 26 percent for Edwards.  The same pattern is evident among those who call themselves “conservative.” Often Edwards won that group, but in California, conservatives strongly favored Kerry, 54 percent to Edwards’ 21 percent.

Not surprisingly, among Democratic primary voters in California, 46 percent think gay couples should be allowed to legally marry; 28 percent said gay couples should be allowed to legally form civil unions; 19 percent believe there should be no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.

New York Highlights

In New York, Kerry did well among core Democratic constituencies — winning majorities of Hispanics (71 percent), union households (62 percent) and Jewish voters (72 percent).  Groups that gave Edwards his highest support include independents, self-described conservatives, and young voters, but even among these groups Kerry won.  For example, Kerry defeated Edwards by a 53-percentage point margin among seniors, but only by a 12-point margin among voters under age 30.

While overall Kerry did well among minority voters, it should be noted that Sharpton did almost as well as Kerry among black voters — 34 percent to Kerry’s 54 percent.

With one exception, in every state exit poll this primary season, voters have said the economy was the most important issue to their vote and New York voters were no different (in New Hampshire, health care topped the list).  A 37 percent plurality of voters said the economy was most important, and by more than two to one those voters broke for Kerry.

Over 80 percent of voters who want a candidate “who can defeat Bush” (picked by 37 percent) and 82 percent who want a candidate who has “the right experience,” (11 percent) favored Kerry.  Just over one in 10 voters said the most important candidate quality was having “a positive message” and half of these supported Edwards.

Georgia Highlights

Strength of support among blacks — almost half of the voters — allowed Kerry to win the southern state of Georgia tonight. By 61 percent to 25 percent, black voters supported Kerry over Edwards, with 10 percent going to Sharpton.

Edwards did better than Kerry among white voters (59 percent to 32 percent).

Georgia’s Democratic primary today was open to all voters and over a quarter described themselves not as Democrats, but as Republicans (10 percent) or independents (19 percent).  Half of independents voted for Edwards, as did 74 percent of Republicans. However, this was not enough to help him beat Kerry who received support from over half of the 71 percent of Democrats voting.

The late surge Edwards received in some previous states was only somewhat evident in Georgia. Edwards beat Kerry by nine points among voters deciding in the last week, while 56 percent of voters decided before that and a majority of them backed Kerry.

Ohio Highlights

Ohio, where Edwards thought his message of jobs and trade would win him votes, turned out to be Kerry country.

The economy/jobs was the overriding concern of 42 percent of the voters here, and Kerry picked up 54 percent of these voters’ support, Edwards only 36 percent.

In Ohio, which suffered great job losses over the past three years, there was the highest percentage of voters polled tonight saying they think U.S. trade with other countries takes more jobs from the state than it creates.  Fully 72 percent feel foreign trade costs jobs for Ohio, yet even these voters favored Kerry, 51 percent to 34 percent. 

In addition, 41 percent said they are worse off financially than they were four years ago, 33 percent are about the same and 20 percent feel they are better off financially.

Organized labor endorsed Kerry, but Edwards was hoping the rank-and-file members would line up behind him. Union households, 44 percent of the electorate, sided with Kerry 58 percent to 31 percent for Edwards.

Self-described independents gave a slight edge to Edwards — 42 percent to 39 percent for Kerry and 13 percent for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search).

Edwards also bettered Kerry among voters who wanted a candidate with a positive message, 47 percent to 42 percent, but few (14 percent) said this was their most important voting quality. The most frequently desired candidate quality was the ability to beat George W. Bush in November, cited by 31 percent.  These voters favored Kerry 70 percent to just 24 percent for Edwards.

Methodology

These exit polls were conducted for Fox News by Edison/Mitofsky as follows:

The California exit poll of 2,356 Democratic primary voters was conducted at 45 randomly selected polling locations, and includes 400 telephone interviews with absentee voters. A Spanish version of the questionnaire was available.

The Georgia exit poll of 1,709 Democratic primary voters was conducted at 35 randomly selected polling locations.

The New York exit poll of 1,420 Democratic primary voters was conducted at 45 randomly selected polling locations.

The Ohio exit poll of 1,503 Democratic primary voters was conducted at 40 randomly selected polling locations.

Click below for more detailed primary results.

Georgia, pdf

Vermont, pdf

Ohio, pdf

Massachusetts, pdf

Maryland, pdf

Rhode Island, pdf

New York, pdf

Connecticut, pdf

California, pdf