Highlights of preliminary exit poll data in the Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary Tuesday:
FINALLY, THE MAIN EVENT
After a six-week lull since the last Democratic primary, Pennsylvania voters were so eager to participate in the hotly contested battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama that one in 10 voting Tuesday had changed their party registration since the start of 2008 so they would be eligible to vote in the Democratic race. The contest was open only to registered Democrats. About half the party-switchers had been registered Republicans, while the rest had been unaffiliated with either party or were voting for the first time in Pennsylvania.
Most of those new Democrats were mobilized to come out for Obama, and they were nearly one-fifth of Obama's supporters. Even the former Republicans favored Obama over Clinton, largely invalidating rumors that Republicans would vote strategically in the Democratic primary in support of Clinton, hoping she would be easier to defeat in November.
As expected, Pennsylvania's Democratic voters were overwhelmingly white and _ as usual in Democratic contests _ there were more women than men. Clinton drew her usual strong support among senior citizens and white women, and won the votes of white men. Those white men, especially blue-collar workers, have been the swing group in most Democratic contests. She even was competitive with Obama among whites under 30 years old, a group that has favored Obama in many states. Obama won the support of black voters and college graduates of all races. One-fourth of Obama's supporters were black, and half had college degrees.
Three in 10 Pennsylvania Democratic voters were union members or had one in their household, and they favored Clinton over Obama. Four in 10 had a gun owner in the household, and gun-owning households also went mostly for Clinton.
RACE AND GENDER MATTER, BUT IN DIFFERENT WAYS
About one in five voters said the race of the candidates was among the top factors in their vote. About as many said that about the candidates' gender. White voters who said race was a factor supported Clinton over Obama by 3-to-1, while whites who said race wasn't a factor divided between Clinton and Obama more evenly. But race and gender played out as factors in very different ways, with Obama's race apparently a negative for him among white voters, while Clinton's gender was a positive factor for her among men and women who said it contributed to their votes. Those who said gender was a factor actually tended to favor Clinton, while Obama did better among those who said gender was not a factor.
BUT ARE THEY BITTER?
Remember those rural Pennsylvanians who Obama called bitter? Well, rural Pennsylvanians, who are overwhelmingly white, favored Clinton over Obama by similar margins to suburban voters, while Obama won among urban Democrats. But while more rural Democrats thought Clinton was in touch them than Obama, the majority still felt Obama was on their wavelength.
Pennsylvania Democrats had a sour view of the economy _ four in 10 said the country is in a serious recession and at least as many called it a moderate recession. Only about one in 10 said the economy is not in recession. Clinton did a little better than Obama on who would improve the country's economy, but nearly half of Pennsylvania Democrats thought both candidates would make a contribution to solving the country's economic problems.
As in earlier primaries, at least half of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. About half as many said Iraq was the top issue. Health care trailed in importance. Voters most concerned about the economy and health care favored Clinton, while those concerned about Iraq favored Obama.
HOW WILL IT ALL END?
Just over half of those voting saw Obama as the eventual winner of the nomination. Even one in five Clinton supporters felt Obama would eventually win. But more Obama supporters said they would be satisfied if Clinton won than vice versa. The animosity between the two camps led more than one in seven Obama supporters to say they would vote for Republican John McCain if Clinton were the nominee. Even more Clinton supporters, one in four, said they would defect.
From a partial sample of 2,217 Democratic primary voters conducted in 40 precincts across Pennsylvania by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks. Margin of sampling error plus or minus three percentage points.
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