Results for Both Parties Are, Surprisingly, Pretty Unsurprising

After months of campaigning in Iowa, the primary election season begins with a Democratic win by Barack Obama and a Republican win by Mike Huckabee.
By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 4, 2008

The Iowa caucuses are typically low-turnout affairs that are notoriously hard to predict, but this year, preelection polls accurately captured the underlying dynamics of both parties' contests. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois appealed to a change-oriented Democratic electorate, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee won the GOP race in large part by picking up significant support among evangelicals.

Obama's victory in the first official vote of 2008 came from a big influx of first-time caucusgoers and significant support from independents. Nearly six in 10 Democratic participants said they had not caucused before, and that group preferred Obama by double-digit margins over Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Although Clinton ran about even with Obama among Democrats, Obama outpaced both of his main rivals among independents, who made up 20 percent of voters and broke 41 percent for Obama, 23 percent for Edwards and 17 percent for Clinton.

In the National Election Pool entrance poll, which was conducted in a random sample of precincts, 52 percent of Democratic caucusgoers called a candidate's ability to bring about needed change the top quality. Obama trounced the competition on this score, with more than half of "change voters" supporting him as they entered a caucus. Twenty percent said a candidate's experience matters most to them.

On the GOP side, 60 percent of caucusgoers were evangelical Christians, and they broke heavily for Huckabee, preferring him by better than 2 to 1 over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. As was the case in a preelection Washington Post-ABC News poll two weeks ago, Huckabee in particular benefited from the support of evangelical women, 51 percent of whom backed his candidacy in the entrance poll.

Nearly a quarter of Democratic caucusgoers were younger than 30, up somewhat from 2004, and they overwhelmingly favored Obama, 57 percent to 14 percent for Edwards and 11 percent for Clinton.

In Iowa, Obama also neutralized Clinton's advantage among women in national polls and, as Post-ABC and Des Moines Register polls indicated, was the top choice among men and women.

Edison/Mitofsky conducted the entrance poll for the NEP, a consortium of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

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