Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) won the New Hampshire (search) Democratic Primary tonight by capturing support from a broad base of voting groups. Kerry did well among military and union households, most age groups and the large voting block of independents.
Kerry also did well among opponents of the Iraq war, a group that was considered a core constituency to the campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search).
More than four in 10 voters today come from a military household and they backed Kerry (39 percent) over Dean (21 percent) as well as retired General Wesley Clark (search) (15 percent).
The much sought after group of independents made up 48 percent of voters today and again a plurality (37 percent) backed Kerry over Dean 23 percent.
Dean came in a solid second in the N.H. primary, winning the support of young voters ("Deaniacs"), but this group made up a small percentage of the overall vote. Voters who consider themselves to be "very liberal" were also strong backers of Dean.
In Iowa, "late decider" voters gave their support to Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search). In New Hampshire, the voters who waited until the last three days to decide — 35 percent of the electorate — backed Kerry by 33 percent, Dean 25 percent, Edwards 16 percent and Clark 13 percent.
After his third place finish in Iowa, Dean gave a speech that has since been a primary focus of commentators and pundits — some of whom have nicknamed it the "I have a scream" speech. Over half of Democratic voters said Dean has the "temperament to serve effectively as president," while almost 40 percent said he does not. Not surprisingly, those who think his temperament may be a problem were strong backers of Kerry.
Voters today said the top candidate quality they were looking for was someone who "stands up for what he believes," and Dean won this group (over his opponents), while Kerry won among those who said the most important quality for the candidate was their ability to beat President George W. Bush. Edwards performed best among voters who were looking for a candidate with a "positive message," which was the third most important candidate quality among New Hampshire voters today.
For much of the campaign Dean focused on the war in Iraq, but today domestic issues such as health care and the economy were driving voter decisions. Over a quarter (28 percent) said health care was the most important issue in determining their vote, the economy was selected by 22 percent and war in Iraq trailed behind at 19 percent.
Of voters who were most concerned about health care, Kerry won by 17 percentage points. On the economy, Kerry won by 30 points.
Most voters today said they disapprove of the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq (63 percent while 30 percent approve). Dean lost to Kerry not only among voters who approve of the war, but also among those who disapprove — a key group targeted by the Dean campaign.
Most Democratic Granite Staters (69 percent) feel the war in Iraq has not made America safer from terrorism. Even though this was a belief strongly proclaimed by Dean, slightly more of these voters favored Kerry over Dean (37 percent to 32 percent).
Almost half (46 percent) of the Democratic voters described their feelings toward the Bush administration as "angry," while another 37 percent said they are "dissatisfied, but not angry." Dean’s campaign has tried to reach out to this "angry" voting block, but their vote split (37 percent Kerry to 35 percent Dean).
Solid majorities of New Hampshire voters today said they are worried about future terrorist attacks (75 percent) and worried about the direction of the nation’s economy (86 percent). Kerry won both of these groups by at least 10 percentage points.
Regardless of which candidate they supported, these Democratic primary voters have a generally favorable opinion of many of the candidates on the ballot. Edwards enjoys the highest favorable at 73 percent, followed by Kerry with 72 percent, Clark with 62 percent, Dean and Lieberman, both with 56 percent.
This exit poll of 1846 Democratic primary voters was conducted at 40 randomly selected New Hampshire voting sites. The results have a margin of error of ± 2 percentage points. Edison/Mitofsky conducted the voter exit poll for the National Election Pool.