Highlights of preliminary results from exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks in Tuesday’s presidential primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont:
DIVIDED BY RACE, GENDER
While Sen. Barack Obama has made significant inroads among whites and women, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton still won the support of her base in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. She won among white women and older voters in those states, while Obama won his usual strong victory among blacks.
White men have been a key swing group in this year’s Democratic primaries. Clinton won the white men in Ohio, tied with Obama for their votes in Texas and came close in Rhode Island. Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the votes of Hispanics in Texas. Blacks were one in five voters in Ohio and Texas, while Hispanics were nearly a third of voters in Texas.
One-fifth of white Ohio voters said race was an important issue to their vote, and those who did voted three in four for Clinton. That compares with the one in five Democrats in Ohio who said gender was important to their vote, and they voted six in 10 for Clinton.
VERMONT IS OBAMA COUNTRY, SMALLEST STATE GOES TO CLINTON
Obama’s easy victory in Vermont contrasted with the closer races in Ohio, and Texas. Obama’s strong showing in Vermont cut across numerous groups that Clinton usually wins, including whites, older people and women. Obama won the votes of 56 percent of women in Vermont, 60 percent of whites, and 58 percent of those over 60 years old. He won the votes of 64 percent of men there.
Clinton’s victory in Rhode Island was also a contrast. There, she won seven in 10 white women and tied Obama among white men. She won all but the youngest voters and even won among college graduates, a group that has favored Obama in recent contests.
MCCAIN MAKES INROADS WITH EVANGELICALS
Four in 10 voters in the Ohio Republican primary and half the voters in the Texas Republican primary were white, evangelical Christians, and Sen. John McCain ran close to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee among those voters. Evangelicals have been the base of support for Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister. While McCain did better than he has in the past among conservatives, he still has a problem there. Huckabee won among the most conservative voters in Texas, but McCain was able to narrowly win their votes in Ohio.
OPEN TO ALL
The primaries in Ohio, Texas and Vermont were open to all voters, while in Rhode Island registered independents could choose which party’s primary to vote in. In Ohio and Texas, Republicans voting in the Democratic primary and self-described independents split between Clinton and Obama. In Vermont, independents went mostly for Obama, while they split about evenly between the two candidates in Rhode Island.
Data for Republican primaries were available only in Ohio and Texas. In Ohio, McCain won independents voting in the Republican race. He also won them in Texas, albeit with a lesser margin.
Roughly six in 10 Democratic voters Tuesday said “superdelegates” — party leaders and elected officials who get to cast votes at the party nominating convention this summer in Denver — should vote based on results of the primaries and caucuses rather than for the candidate they think has the best chance to win in November.
Even among Clinton’s voters, about half said the superdelegates should follow the results of the primaries and caucuses. Obama’s supporters were more likely to say so. Clinton is trailing in pledged delegates and, depending on how the remaining primaries go, it’s possible her only chance for the nomination is if many superdelegates support her at the Democratic convention.
FRETTING ABOUT THE ECONOMY
The economy was big in Ohio Democratic voters’ minds — six in 10 said it’s the most important issue facing the country, more than said so in any of the other 25 Democratic primaries with exit polls this year. Clinton won among those Ohio voters most concerned about the economy. More than half of Rhode Island Democrats and nearly as many in Texas picked the economy as the top issue out of three choices. In Vermont, almost as many voters picked Iraq as selected the economy — the first Democratic contest this year in which Iraq was considered about as important as the economy.
As in other Democratic primaries this year, few voters Tuesday viewed the nation’s economy positively. But Texas Democrats were relatively optimistic, with one in seven saying the economy is in good condition — as many as have said that in any other state.
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
Four in 10 Clinton voters in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island said Obama inspires them about the future of the country. Almost two-thirds of Clinton supporters in Vermont gave Obama kudos for being inspirational. Obama voters were much less likely to call Clinton inspirational — about a quarter of them said that across the four states.
Results from partial statewide samples of voters in 40 precincts each in Ohio and Texas and 20 each in Rhode Island and Vermont as well as a telephone survey of early voters in Texas. Fieldwork by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Sample sizes ranged from 964 voters in the Rhode Island Democratic primary to 1,768 in the Texas Democratic contest.