By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Kentucky's Democratic electorate proved tailor-made for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as her most reliable voters turned out in large numbers, giving her a win of better than 2 to 1 over Sen. Barack Obama. But Obama scored a rare double-digit win among white voters in Oregon, capitalizing on that state's more liberal electorate.
In Kentucky, white women -- core Clinton supporters -- made up half of all Democratic primary voters, and whites without college degrees made up 59 percent. According to the network exit poll, Clinton beat Obama by overwhelming margins among both groups, and she carried those age 65 and older by 60 percentage points, her second-best showing among older voters in any of the primaries or caucuses so far.
Obama scored sporadic wins among these voters in previous contests, but in Oregon, a swing state in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, a telephone survey of voters in the mail-only Democratic primary showed him doing well among Clinton's base.
In Oregon, Obama scored his first victory among white voters since March 4, in Vermont. In both Oregon and Vermont, about six in 10 Democratic voters described themselves as liberal. By contrast, liberals made up fewer than four in 10 election-day voters in Kentucky. Clinton won white voters in Kentucky by 49 percentage points.
White women in Oregon split their votes evenly between the candidates, as did white voters without college degrees. Clinton beat Obama by 11 percentage points among all seniors in Oregon, but that was only half her average margin in all Democratic contests.
In Kentucky, Obama also lost white voters who are younger than 30 by 34 points, his second-worst showing among the group to date. Among white men, a pivotal voter group this year, Clinton won by 44 points in Kentucky, and Obama won by 31 points in Oregon, one of his best showings among that group. In Oregon, he won white men who called themselves liberal by more than 40 percentage points.
In Kentucky, Obama won by better than 9 to 1 among black voters, but they made up just 9 percent of the electorate. He also had a 14-point advantage among voters in large cities, but they were only an eighth of the electorate. Nearly six in 10 Kentucky voters live in rural areas or small cities, and they went for Clinton by a wide margin, 77 to 19 percent. (Rural white voters were about three times more apt than those in cities to say that race was an important factor in their decision.)
Clinton's big win in Kentucky in many ways mirrored her 41-point victory in West Virginia one week ago, as significant numbers of Democrats in both states appear resistant to having Obama atop the party's ticket in the general election.
Only about four in 10 Kentucky voters said they would be satisfied with Obama as the Democratic nominee, nearly matching a primary season low that was set in West Virginia. Among Clinton backers in the Bluegrass State, 21 percent said they would be happy with Obama as the party's candidate. And in a hypothetical matchup against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, only half of all Kentucky Democratic voters said they would vote for Obama (it is 33 percent among those voting for Clinton in the state's primary).
And as he did in West Virginia, Obama faced an honesty and a values gap vis-¿-vis Clinton in Kentucky. Fewer than half of the state's voters said the senator from Illinois is honest and trustworthy, and a similarly low percentage said he shares their values.
There also appears to be little enthusiasm among Kentucky voters for a combined Democratic ticket in the fall: About four in 10 of each candidate's supporters said their top choice should tap the other for vice president.
In Oregon, however, majorities of Democratic voters said they would be satisfied with either Democrat's leading the party into the fall election, and more than eight in 10 picked either in match-ups with McCain. And nearly two-thirds of Oregon voters said they would prefer the election to continue, even if their top choice does not win; 28 percent want it to end as soon as possible.
In both Oregon and Kentucky, the economy topped the list of issues important to voters, as it has in nearly all previous contests. In Kentucky, 67 percent of voters called the nation's economy the country's most pressing problem; only in Indiana has it been that high. Nearly six in 10 Kentucky Democrats said a proposed suspension of the federal gasoline tax is a good idea; nearly two-thirds in Oregon said it is a bad one.
In Oregon, a majority said both candidates would be good on the environment.
Change was again the top candidate quality that voters in both states were looking for, and Obama won these voters by a huge margin in Oregon. But he won "change voters" by 10 points in Kentucky, a narrower advantage than he has had in most other contests.
The polls were conducted by Edison-Mitofsky for the National Election Pool, and included 1,407 interviews with Democratic voters as they exited polling places in Kentucky, and 1,201 telephone interviews with voters in Oregon, where all votes are cast by mail. Results have an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points in Kentucky, and it is three points in Oregon.