What Happened In Ind. And N.C.

The contests in Indiana and North Carolina continued long demographic trends that are proving to be destiny in the 2008 Democratic primaries.

According to exit polls, a third of North Carolina voters were black — and with the support of more than nine in 10 black voters, Barack Obama was able to overcome Hillary Rodham Clinton’s white support and win the Tar Heel State.

Eight in 10 voters in Indiana were white — and with the support of six in 10 whites, Clinton held a slim lead with 91 percent of the vote reporting.

On the demographic front, there were no big surprises Tuesday night, as the two groups most personally vested in the symbolism of their candidate — white women and blacks — were once again the most loyal to their candidate.

Still, there were unique findings in the two states that separated these voters from past contests — particularly the power of the issue of economic anxiety.

Nearly seven in 10 Indiana voters said the economy was the most important issue, as did six in 10 North Carolinians. That degree of economic concern in Indiana was above financial angst in Pennsylvania or even Ohio, a state hit especially hard by unemployment.

But unlike in Pennsylvania, the voters most anxious about the economy were not handily carried by Clinton. In Indiana, she won only a slim majority of these voters and in North Carolina, Obama won a majority.

Also on the economic front, it appears Clinton’s gas tax proposal, which was heavily debated this past week, likely did not move votes to her side.

Equally of note, the often double-digit white gender gap hardly registered in Indiana. Clinton won about six in 10 white women there, about the same margin as her showing on Super Tuesday in early February, but below her showing in Pennsylvania, where she won nearly seven in 10 white women.

Yet her emerging strength among Democratic white male voters, the key swing bloc of the primaries, compensated for that dip. Clinton won nearly six in 10 white men, only a couple of percentage points behind white women, in Indiana.

Clinton has won white men in 13 states. Obama has won white men in 10 states. At Obama’s high point, following his victory in Wisconsin, he had won the white male vote in three consecutive Democratic contests.

When Clinton wins hotly contested primaries, she does so with white men. Clinton has now won the swing bloc of white men in all of the recent Rust Belt contests, from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Indiana.

In North Carolina, she also won a majority of white men and maintained the support of more than six in ten white women.

Obama seems to have gained back some of his strength with young white voters. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, white voters under age 30 were split between the two Democrats, though early in the primary race this was a key bloc of Obama’s base. In both states Tuesday, Obama won a clear majority of the white youth vote and, as always, youth overall.

But yet again, whites age 60 and older were more than a fifth of voters and once again at least two times larger than the bloc of young whites. And once again, Clinton won a far larger share of the white senior vote than Obama did of the white youth vote.

Clinton won seven in ten whites 60 and older, reflecting similar performances in Missouri, Ohio,and Pennsylvania. Blacks of all ages, and both genders, overwhelmingly backed Obama.

Obama’s problems with rural and working class whites also persisted — Clinton won about six in 10 blue-collar whites in Indiana. She won an even higher percentage of voters who lack a college degree.

Clinton also won seven in ten small city or rural voters in Indiana and a majority of those from union households. Clinton won the Indiana suburbs while, as expected, Obama won the city vote.

In North Carolina, Obama won a slim majority of those living in the suburbs or rural and small towns, while he again dominated urban voters.

ace appears to have played some role Tuesday. About one in 10 whites in Indiana, as in Pennsylvania, said race was a factor in deciding their vote. About three in four of those voters supported Clinton.

Only about 5 percent of blacks said race was an important factor in Indiana, while 10 percent of women said gender was an important factor.

In an ominous note for Obama, nearly half of Indiana voters rated “the importance of the situation with Rev. Wright” as “very or somewhat” important. That is a remarkably high number considering these are Democratic voters and it has been mostly non-Democrats who polls show are most offended by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial statements.

Still, it appears that Wright did not significantly alter voting habits of each candidate’s base.

Traditional cultural habits like gun ownership and weekly church attendance did not play a significant role Tuesday in moving voters to one side.

Gun owners split in North Carolina. In Indiana, Clinton won six in 10 gun owners, as she did in Pennsylvania. But that trend correlates to her win among whites and dominance of rural voters.

Those who attend church at least once a week split between Clinton and Obama in Indiana. Obama won weekly attendees in North Carolina, likely because Obama’s support among blacks correlates to the high rate of church attendance among African-Americans.

In both states, Obama once again carried liberal Democrats and Clinton carried the more conservative-minded. In both states, Obama won a large majority of those who had not voted in a presidential primary before. Obama, though, only narrowly won independents over Clinton in Indiana, often a pillar of his support.

There were clear Democratic divisions — and signs they may be widening. In Pennsylvania, about one in 10 voters said they would support the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, in the general election. About twice that number said they would support McCain in Indiana and North Carolina.

This McCain finding correlates to about a fifth of voters being independents in these two states, roughly 5 percent more than in Pennsylvania.

About 20 percent to 33 percent of Democratic voters said only their candidate “shares the values of people like you” or is “honest and trustworthy.” Obama’s voters were more likely than Clinton’s to hold a lower view of their opponent’s character, an indication that his supporters are more deeply offended by the nature of the ongoing race.
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