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Exit polls: Independents make difference for McCain

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) — John McCain got a big boost of independent support in the push to his projected victory in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, exit polls show.

Independents, who make up about 40 percent of the New Hampshire electorate, are allowed to choose whether to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries. Thirty-seven percent of those who cast a GOP ballot Tuesday identified themselves as independents, according to the exit polls.

McCain got the vote of 39 percent of independents, compared with 27 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who finished second Tuesday. Romney and McCain were almost even among those who identified themselves as Republicans, with 33 and 34 percent, respectively.

I-Reporter Bob Sinkiewicz, an independent, said he was tempted to cast a Democratic ballot for Barack Obama, but was swayed by McCain’s experience and consistent message.

I think [Obama] got a bye on a lot of tough questions, too, he said.

McCain’s high standing with independents was reminiscent of his performance in the 2000 GOP primary in New Hampshire.

Although George Bush beat McCain among registered Republicans that year, independents, who accounted for 41 percent of the total GOP turnout, handed McCain the win. Watch as McCain supporters cheer his projected victory Tuesday

McCain last year bucked public opinion with his full-throated support of President Bush’s commitment of nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq at a time when a solid majority of Americans had turned against the 4-year-old war.

Exit polls found 64 percent of Tuesday’s Republican voters still support the conflict — and Romney, whose criticism of Bush’s management of the war has been muted, led McCain among those voters. But among the 34 percent who said they disapproved of the war, McCain had a wide advantage over the GOP field — even over Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the sole advocate of a U.S. withdrawal in the Republican field.

In Tuesday’s primaries, both Democrats and Republicans rated the economy as the most important issue in the primaries, and almost all voters said they were worried about it, exit polls show.

But an overwhelming majority in both parties said their families weren’t in tough financial times.

Ninety-eight percent of Democrats said they were worried about the economy. And 87 percent of Democrats rated the economy as not good or poor, according to exit polls. But they were more positive about their personal economic circumstances, with 59 percent saying they were holding steady and 14 percent saying they were getting ahead.

Among GOP voters, 79 percent said they were worried about the economy. And just 51 percent rated the nation’s economy as excellent or good, but an overwhelming majority said their family was holding steady financially (58 percent) or getting ahead (21 percent).

Despite their economic circumstances, dissatisfaction with the Bush administration was clearly evident in both Democratic and Republican voters.

Almost two-thirds of Democrats polled (65 percent) said they were angry with the Bush administration. And almost half of Republicans, (49 percent) said they were angry or dissatisfied with the Bush administration.

Many voters decided on their candidates late in the process, the polls showed, with 18 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats saying they settled on a candidate on the day of the primary.

A majority of Democrats said the issues were the most important factor in how they voted, while most Republicans said the candidates’ personal qualities were most important to their decision.

The war in Iraq was the second most important issue for voters in both parties — but concerns about illegal immigration rated third among Republicans, while Democrats said health care was just behind Iraq.

In last week’s Iowa caucuses, evangelical Christian voters provided the margin of victory for former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. But they make up a smaller portion of the electorate in New Hampshire, where Huckabee ran third in pre-election polls.

Compared with the Iowa caucuses, where 60 percent of Republicans described themselves as evangelicals, exit polls in New Hampshire put evangelical turnout at about 21 percent.

Among those evangelical voters, Huckabee got only 32 percent, while McCain got 31 percent.
found here.

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January 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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