Voters Doubly Fired Up


By: Wall Street Journal

Ire Over Status Quo, Fervor for Favorites Elicit Big Turnout
By LAURA MECKLER

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Voters again turned out in record numbers yesterday, pumped up about their candidates but in a sour mood over the economy, the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, exit polls indicated.

As in last week’s Iowa caucuses, all indications suggest voters are in a mood for change, the buzzword of 2008, though Democrats and Republicans are far from agreed on what that change should be.

Edison/Mitofsky, which conducts the exit polls for the National Election Pool, estimated that 500,000 people voted yesterday, half the state’s eligible voters. That is higher than in 2004, when 44% of the state’s eligible voters turned out, and 2002, when the figure was just under 30%. Yesterday’s Democratic turnout was estimated at 280,000; Republicans drew 220,000.

On a day of record-high temperatures, turnout was so heavy that at midday the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office rushed out additional ballots to some towns. As in Iowa, the number of young voters was up, though not as markedly. In Iowa, 22% of Democratic caucus-goers were under 30 years old; yesterday in New Hampshire, 18% of Democratic voters were under 30, an increase from 14% in the state’s 2004 Democratic primary.

Many New Hampshire voters waited until the weekend or later to make up their minds. In both parties, nearly four in 10 voters decided within the past three days whom to vote for, meaning the results of Iowa’s caucuses may have influenced them.

The exit poll of 1,472 Republicans and 1,914 Democrats was conducted at 50 polling places around the state. It had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

The survey found deep discontent with President Bush, the economy and the Iraq war. Among Democrats, 61% said they were angry at the Bush administration, with another 31% dissatisfied.

In 2004, only 46% of Democrats surveyed in the New Hampshire primary said they were angry, with 37% dissatisfied. Half of Republicans said they were either angry or dissatisfied.

That Republican number is probably higher in New Hampshire than it is elsewhere in the country, says Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, an independent public opinion center.

That isn’t to say Democrats and Republicans agree about the solution. Half the Republicans surveyed said they hope the next president’s policies are more conservative than Mr. Bush’s.

On Iraq, Democrats agreed troops should be withdrawn, but slightly more favored setting a withdrawal timetable over withdrawing all troops as soon as possible.

Among Republicans, about six in 10 approved of the Iraq war.

Large numbers of voters in both parties said they are concerned that a terrorist attack will hit the U.S.

But the top issue in both parties was the economy. Among Democrats, 98% said they were very or somewhat worried about the direction of the nation’s economy. For Republicans, it was also high: about 80%.

Still, Democrats were more pessimistic than their GOP counterparts. Some 85% of Democrats said the national economy is not good or poor. Only about half of Republicans agree. More than one in four Democrats said their own family’s financial situation was falling behind; among Republicans, it was about 18%.

The survey found compelling evidence that the energy gap between Democrats and Republicans that has been talked about for months is real. One in three Republicans said they supported their candidate with some reservations. Among Democrats, just one in five felt similar reservations about their choices.

Republicans were asked whether they had a favorable view of the various candidates, regardless of who they voted for. Sen. John McCain scored highest, with about 75% viewing him favorably. No one else was even close to that, with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney at 62% and the rest all lower.

Democrats, by contrast, were much better liked by their voters, with 84% viewing Sen. Barack Obama favorably and 79% saying the same of former Sen. John Edwards. Sen. Hillary Clinton wasn’t that far behind with a 73% favorability.

Among Democrats, health care took third place behind the economy and the war in Iraq as the most important issue facing the country. More than one in three Democrats said they would have preferred to vote to give Bill Clinton a third term. The vast majority of these voters picked his wife instead.

Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com

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