Behind The Clinton-Obama Draw

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y, right, and husband, former President Bill Clinton, left, greet supporters at the Douglas Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua, New York, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, after casting their votes in the New York Democratic primary.
AP
CBS News Political Consultant Samuel Best analyzes the Super Tuesday performance of Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Voters split their support nearly equally between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama in states holding Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday, according to CBS News exit polls.

Nationwide, 49 percent of Super Tuesday voters supported Clinton, while 46 percent supported Obama. Regardless of who wins the nomination, the overwhelming majority of voters would be content with either outcome. Seventy-two percent would be satisfied if Clinton were the nominee, while 70 percent would be satisfied in Obama were the nominee.

Economic concerns continue to weigh heavily on Democratic primary voters. Ninety-one percent of voters said the economy was not good or poor. Nearly half (48 percent) of voters cited the economy as the most important issue facing the nation, with the remaining voters splitting between the Iraq war (29 percent) and health care (29 percent).

Clinton was favored by a majority of voters who thought the economy and health care to be most important, while Obama was the choice for voters most worried about the war in Iraq.


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Voters clearly wanted a new approach to deal with these problems. A majority (51 percent), said they wanted a candidate who could bring about change, as opposed to 23 percent who preferred a candidate with experience.

Fourteen percent wanted a candidate who cares about people like them, and 9 percent wanted a candidate who would win in November. Obama was the choice among voters who sought change, while Clinton was the choice among voters who sought experience or empathy. Voters who wanted a winner were evenly divided between Clinton and Obama.

Coalitions that proved important in earlier primary states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina held once again, and fueled victories in states where these coalitions comprised a disproportionate part of the electorate. Obama did particularly well among blacks and young voters, whereas Clinton won the support of Latinos, white women, and the elderly.

Blacks turn out heavily for Obama

Black voters across the country threw their support overwhelmingly behind Obama. Nationally, 82 percent of blacks voted for Obama, compared to 17 percent who voted for Clinton. The margin was 85 to 14 among black men, and 80 to 18 among black women.

Turnout among black voters was heavy across the country, proving to be decisive in several East Coast states. In Georgia, where Obama defeated Clinton by more than 30 points in the popular vote, blacks comprised 51 percent of the electorate. Obama won 87 percent of their votes compared to only 12 percent for Clinton.

It was the same story in Alabama, where blacks comprised 51 percent of the Democratic electorate. They backed Obama by a margin of 84-15 percent. In Delaware, turnout among blacks was a whopping 12 points higher than in 2004, and comprised 28 percent of the electorate. Obama won the support of 86 percent of black voters in Delaware, compared to only 9 percent for Clinton.

Latinos heavily support Clinton

Clinton drew heavily from Latino voters, who comprised 16 percent of primary electorate on Super Tuesday. Sixty-four percent of Hispanic voters nationwide supported Clinton, as opposed to 34 percent who backed Obama. She won 68 percent of the vote among Latino women and 59 percent of the vote among Latino men.

Latino voters propelled Clinton to victory in two Western states. In California, Latinos comprised a 29 percent of the electorate, up 13 points from 2004. Clinton won Latino voters by a whopping 40 points, 69 percent of the Latino vote, whereas Obama pulled in 29 percent of the vote. In Arizona, Latino voters make up 18 percent of primary voters. Clinton won 55 percent of Latino voters in Arizona, while Obama was supported by 41 percent.

Obama Energizes Young Voters

Obama decisively won voters under 30 years of age. Nationwide, Obama won 56 percent of young voters, while Clinton was supported by 42 percent. Young men supported Obama by a margin of 64 -33 percent over Clinton, while young women supported Obama by 53-45 percent. The margins were similar among young people who attended college and those who did not.

Young people proved to be particularly crucial to Obama's victory in Connecticut. Obama won voters under 30 years of age by 19 points, receiving the support of 58 percent of this age group, compared to 39 percent who supported Clinton.

The Elderly Support Clinton

Clinton once again performed well among elderly voters, who comprised 28 percent of the Super Tuesday primary electorate. Clinton was supported by 56 percent of voters 60 years of age and older, whereas Obama was supported by 35 percent. Support was similar by gender, with Clinton leading Obama among elderly women voters 59 percent to 34 percent, and among elderly men 53 percent to 38 percent.

Elderly voters powered Clinton's victories in several key states. In Oklahoma, where Clinton won by more than 20 points, elderly voters comprised 42 percent of the electorate. Clinton won this group by nearly a three-to-one margin, securing 64 percent of their votes compared to 23 percent for Obama.

In Tennessee, elderly voters made up 28 percent of the electorate. Clinton won the support of 65 percent of elderly Tennessee voters, as opposed to only 26 percent for Obama.

White Women Back Clinton

Similar to their behavior in the early primary states, white women once again supported Clinton by a wide margin. White women comprised 35 percent of the Democratic electorate. Fifty-nine percent of white female voters supported Clinton, compared to 35 percent who supported Obama.

White female voters were a key factor in several Clinton victories. In Massachusetts, white women comprised an enormous 50 percent of the electorate. Clinton won these voters by almost a two-to-one margin, securing 65 percent of white female voters as opposed to 34 percent for Obama. In New Jersey, white females made up 34 percent of Democratic voters. A whopping 72 percent of them supported Clinton, compared to only 27 percent for Obama

Looking Ahead

The further strengthening of the coalitions built by Clinton and Obama may provide insights into the upcoming primary battlegrounds. On Saturday, Louisiana holds their Democratic primary. The large number of black voters in the state bodes well for Obama, who scored impressive victories in the nearby states of Alabama and Georgia with similar demographics.

The poll was conducted for the AP and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International as voters left sites in the Super Tuesday primary states. The Democratic poll interviewed 16,290 primary voters. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.

Samuel Best is the Director of the Center for Survey Research and Analysis and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from SUNY-Stony Brook.



The poll was conducted for the AP and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International as voters left sites in the Super Tuesday primary states. The Republican poll interviewed 10,402 primary voters. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.