(AP) – Voters clamoring for change, young people and first-time caucus-goers gave Barack Obama victory in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses yesterday, while evangelical Christians and those who want a candidate to share their religious beliefs were key to Mike Huckabee’s Republican win, surveys found.
Given four choices, 52 percent of Democratic caucus-goers said the most important personal quality was that a candidate “can bring about needed change,” and Obama won the initial preference of half of them, according to the entrance poll for The Associated Press and television networks.
Hillary Rodham Clinton won half of those who said it was most important that a candidate “has the right experience” – but only one in five said that.
John Edwards won nearly as many, 44 percent, of those who said the top priority is that a candidate “cares about people like me,” but again only one in five chose that attribute. Only 8 percent said it’s most important that a candidate “has the best chance to win in November,” and Edwards fared best among them with 36 percent support.
More than one in five Democratic caucus-goers was under age 30 – about twice as many as typically vote in early presidential nomination events – and 57 percent of them expressed initial preference for Obama. Only 10 percent of those younger voters backed Clinton, and 14 percent Edwards. Clinton won 45 percent of voters 65 or older, who made up a fifth of the Democratic electorate – double the share of seniors in Iowa’s general population.
Nearly six in 10 Democratic voters were attending their first caucuses, and 41 percent of them backed Obama. Edwards, who finished second in the 2004 Iowa caucuses, edged out Clinton and Obama among those who have caucused before.
Obama also edged out Clinton, vying to become the first female president, among female voters.
The survey explained how Edwards edged out Clinton for second place under Democrats’ quirky caucus rules. After an initial vote, supporters of candidates who don’t get 15 percent backing in any caucus site can switch to one of the “viable” candidates who clear that threshold. The entrance poll found that among supporters of candidates who finished in single digits statewide, only 11 percent said Clinton would be their second choice; 31 percent said Edwards and 34 percent Obama.
In the Republican contest, born-again or evangelical Christians comprised six in 10 Republican caucus-goers, and 46 percent of them favored Huckabee. Only 19 percent favored Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has been viewed skeptically by some religious conservatives.
More than a third of Republican caucus-goers said it matters a great deal to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs, and 56 percent backed Huckabee versus only 11 percent for Romney.
Given a choice among four personal attributes, 45 percent of GOP caucus-goers said it was most important that a candidate “shares my values,” and nearly half of them supported Huckabee. A third said it was most important that a candidate “says what he believes,” and Huckabee won among 33 percent of them, while 21 percent supported Fred Thompson, and John McCain, Romney and Ron Paul each won about 15 percent.
McCain and Romney each won a little more than a third of voters who said the top priority was that a candidate “has the right experience.” Only 7 percent said the most important attribute was a candidate’s electability, and half of them backed Romney.
Iowa caucus-goers typically are more ideological than most other states with competitive presidential nomination contests. Nearly nine in 10 Republican caucus-goers called themselves politically conservative, including 45 percent who said they are very conservative – a relatively strong group for Thompson. Among Democratic caucus-goers 54 percent said they are liberal, and Obama did better among liberals than more moderate caucus-goers.
The surveys were conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International as voters arrived at 40 sites each for Democratic and Republican caucuses in Iowa.