Starting Gate: The Story So Far

We have seen unprecedented voter turnout in this year's race for the presidency. In fact, to date, more than 25 million voters have cast ballots in a Democratic primary - compared to 16,182,439 in 2004 and 14,048,951 in 2000, according to an analysis by Jennifer De Pinto of the CBS News elections and survey unit. And a recent national poll conducted by CBS News shows Democrats are more enthusiastic than usual about this election. (Note: The numbers in this analysis exclude data from Michigan and Florida. Also, figures from the Iowa and Nevada caucus entrance polls are not included).

So, who are these Democratic voters?

According to exit polls conducted in 27 primary states, Democratic primary voters are more likely to be women than men, to be age 45 and over, and nearly half are college graduates. While most Democratic primary voters are white, 38 percent are not. These Democratic voters are concerned about the economy and are looking for a candidate who can bring about needed change.

With the historical prospect of a women or an African American becoming president, race and gender have played a critical role in the Democratic primaries.

Women make up 58 percent of Democratic voters in the primaries so far and more than half of them have backed Hillary Clinton in these contests. Men, however, have supported Barack Obama.

In terms of the racial make up of the Democratic primary electorate, 19 percent are African American and 14 percent identify themselves as Hispanic. This is in stark contrast to Republican primary voters, of whom fewer than 1 in 10 are black or Hispanic.

Presidential Primaries – Race


Democratic Republican
Primaries Primaries
White 62% 89%
Black 19 2
Hispanic 14 6

Still, most Democratic primary voters are white (62 percent) and Clinton leads Obama by 14 points among them. Obama has captured the lion's share of the black vote (84 percent of it). And Clinton has won the support of 63 percent of Hispanics so far and they were key to her victories in the California and Texas primaries.

Democratic Primaries – Race And Gender


Total Clinton Obama
Men 42% 42% 53%
Women 58 51 46

White 62 53 42
Black 19 15 84
Hispanic 14 63 35

White Men 27 46 48
White Wom 35 58 37


There has been much discussion about the role of white males in this election. They make up 27 percent of Democratic voters in the primaries to date and they have split their vote: 48 percent for Obama and 46 percent for Clinton.

Clinton has been more successful with white male voters in southern states, while Obama has made inroads with this group in other parts of the country.

White women have strongly backed Clinton.

While most Democratic primary voters are older, 15 percent are under age 30. Young voters are some of Obama's strongest supporters – 59 percent of them have backed the Illinois Senator in the Democratic primaries to date.

Democratic Primaries – Age


Total Clinton Obama
Under 30 15% 38% 59%
30-44 26 41 56
45-64 43 50 46
65+ 16 57 36

Six in 10 (61 percent) Democratic primary voters have household incomes of $50K or more. Thirty nine percent earn less than that.

Obama has done better with voters who have a household income of $50K or more, while Clinton has won the support of those earning less than $50K.

Education matters too. Obama has thus far won the support of those Democratic voters with a college education, while Clinton runs better among voters with less education. Obama has won 54 percent of those voters with a college degree, Clinton has won 51 percent of those without.

As expected, most Democratic primary voters identify themselves as Democrats, while one in five are Independents. Just 5 percent are Republicans. Independents, who were permitted to vote in most Democratic primaries and caucuses so far make up 20 percent of the vote and have thrown their support behind Obama. Clinton, however, does a bit better with self-identified Democrats. Obama has taken 55 percent of independents while Clinton has won 50 percent of Democrats.

Democratic primary voters are more likely to call themselves liberals (47 percent) than moderates (40 percent) but not by a large margin. Few – 13 percent - say they are conservative. Clinton and Obama run pretty even among both liberals and moderates.

The economy has been on the minds of voters throughout this campaign: 50 percent chose it as the most important issue in their vote. Twenty seven percent picked the war, while 20 percent selected health care.

Democratic primary voters are looking for change – 51 percent of voters have selected it as the most important quality in their vote - that's more than twice the number of voters who cite experience, 23 percent. Obama solidly wins Democratic voters looking for a candidate who could provide needed change (70 percent), while Clinton dominates among those who choose the right experience as the most important quality (90 percent).