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What We Can Learn From The Democratic Exit Polls

I've looked at the current Democratic exit polls, which, incidentally, are adjusted later to fit the final results, so what I have to say here must taken as subject to revision. What they show is that the pattern that held up earlier in the year between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – not in terms of the extent of their support, but in terms of who is supporting them – is holding up in New Hampshire.  Clinton is still doing well among women (particularly older and married women), traditional Democrats, voters over 40,  and among lower-middle income white voters without college degrees who are worried about the economy.  Obama is doing fabulously among the young and very well among independents and upscale Independents.  Both of these can also be important blocs for a Democrat to win in the fall.

Here are the groups in which Obama enjoyed a significant margin over Clinton: men, young voters (18-24), voters making more than $50,000, voters with post-graduate education (a good indication of professionals), independents, first time voters, voters without religious affiliation, men without children and single men, voters who said they were getting ahead financially, voters who thought the war in Iraq was the most important issue, who wanted change, and who wanted someone who could unite the country.

Here are Clinton's groups: women, particularly married women, voters over 40, voters making less than $50,000, voters without a college degree, union voters, Democrats, Catholics (an important constituency for the Democrats),  people very worried about the economy, voters who thought the economy was most important, voters who valued experience, and voters who evaluated candidates on whether they "care about people like me."

There were anomalies. Voters who thought the war in Iraq was the most important issue favored Obama by 46 to 33 percent, while voters who favored our withdrawing  all troops "as soon as possible" favored Clinton by 40 to 36 percent. That may reflect Clinton's higher rating as a potential commander-in-chief, or it may just be a statistical anomaly.  Clinton's support by 38 to 20 percent over Obama on the question of which "one of these candidates "cares about people like me" is also interesting, and suggests that Obama has a different kind of charisma than Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.  This was, too, Edwards' strongest category – the only one where he won more support than his rivals.

What does this mean for the future?  If one assumes that Obama is the more likely nominee, it means that he is going to find a way of reaching white working class voters.  If he can't, he'll have trouble winning a lot of those Midwestern swing states.  Clinton, meanwhile, has to suggest those independents and independently-minded Democrats who don't look back nostalgically on the '90s that she would make a better nominee and president.