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Poll Analysis: Democratic Candidates Still Fighting For Every Vote in Arizona, South Carolina and Missouri

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With just two days remaining until the February 3rd primaries and caucuses – which will be held in Arizona, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Delaware and North Dakota – many of the Democratic candidates are crisscrossing these seven states to garner votes for their candidacy. A new Los Angeles Times/CNN poll was conducted in three of these states – Arizona, South Carolina and Missouri.

South Carolina was polled because of its importance as the first southern state to hold a primary. Voters in this southern state have a different sensibility from Midwestern voters in Iowa and New England voters in New Hampshire. South Carolina also has a more racially diverse electorate where roughly a quarter of Democratic voters are African-American. N.C. Senator John Edwards stands a good chance of placing first there which would renew his campaign.

Missouri is now wide open since native son, Congressman Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race. The poll shows that Mass. Senator John Kerry seems to be doing well in this state. And Arizona is a state with many retirees and veterans. Both Kerry and retired General Wesley Clark could do well there.

The outcome of the Democratic primary in each of these three states is by no means a fait accompli for any of the candidates still pursuing the Democratic nomination. More than a fifth of likely Democratic voters in Arizona and South Carolina and three in 10 Missouri voters are still undecided; roughly two in five voters in each of these states said there is a possibility that they might end up voting for someone else.

Edwards has spent a lot of time in South Carolina saying that he is the only candidate that can carry the South and help the Democrats win the presidency. He has criticized Kerry for saying that a Democrat can win without any southern state. However, Kerry may have been helped with the endorsement of U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn, a popular African-American elected official (who initially endorsed Dick Gephardt). According to the current poll, Edwards has a 12 point lead over Kerry in this state. In Arizona, Kerry and Clark are in a tight race, while in Missouri, Kerry has a very wide lead over any of his closest opponents.

Former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean at this point doesn’t have any television ads in the seven states with contests on Feb. 3rd . His campaign says that they are setting their sights toward the more delegate-rich states of Michigan (caucus on February 10th), Washington, Wisconsin, California and New York. This strategy is risky, but in order to secure the Democratic party nomination, a candidate must receive at least 2,200 delegates and Dean is looking ahead toward the nomination.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s fifth place finish in New Hampshire has not helped his chances in these states. He is getting low single digit support. The same is true for Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Arizona

Vote/Certainty of Vote: Although John Kerry came out of Iowa and New Hampshire with first place wins, the Democratic likely primary voters in Arizona are not yet convinced that he is the candidate to vote for. He has not “closed the deal” with these voters. The seven presidential hopefuls are vying for the 55 delegates from this state (another 9 delegates are not bound by the primary).

A new Los Angeles Times/CNN poll shows that if the election were being held today, John Kerry would receive the support of 29% of Democratic likely primary voters, followed by 22% for Wesley Clark, 13% for Howard Dean, 8% for John Edwards, 3% for Joe Lieberman, 2% for Dennis Kucinich and 1% for Al Sharpton. (Kerry’s lead is within the poll’s five point margin of error.) However, 22% of the Democratic primary electorate said that they are undecided. Along with this indecision about who to vote for is the fact that almost two in five Arizona voters said they could vote for someone else. Still, among the more than three-fifths who said they are certain of their vote, more voters support Kerry (43%) over Clark (25%) and more than twice as many would support Kerry over Dean. Kerry backers are the only ones that are solidly behind their candidate. More than two out of five Clark and Dean voters and nearly half of Edwards voters still could change their minds.

Support of Candidate: Among all Arizona Democratic likely voters, 16% said they like their candidate because of their candidate’s military background, chance of winning in November (13%) charisma (12%) and experience (12%). Among those who cited military background as a reason for supporting their candidate, roughly two-thirds are voting for Clark, while the other third back Kerry. The voters who cited charisma split their vote between Clark, Kerry and Dean. And those who mentioned experienced, overwhelmingly supported Kerry. Kerry supporters mentioned that he can win in November as the overriding factor why they are supporting him, followed by his experience. (Interestingly, no other candidate’s supporters mentioned beating Bush as a reason to support their candidate.) Clark supporters like his military background.

As in a Los Angeles Times pre-Iowa caucus poll and New Hampshire exit poll, Democratic likely voters in Arizona think it is more important to vote for a candidate that agrees with them on the issues (50%) rather than deciding on a candidate that has the best chance of beating President Bush (43%). However, those who want a candidate that could beat Bush in November, more than 2 out of five are backing Kerry. As was shown by the vote in New Hampshire and to a degree in Arizona, more voters believe Kerry has two attributes that are needed to become the Democratic nominee — electability and experience.

Just under a fifth of voters said that the outcome of the New Hampshire primary will play either a major or a minor role in their decision on Feb. 3 and this group is strongly backing Kerry. Among the more than four out of five voters that said N.H. will not play a role in their candidate’s decision, the vote is split between Clark (31%) and Kerry (30%).

Issues like to hear discussed: Unlike the New Hampshire voters, Arizona likely primary voters mentioned Iraq as the number one issue they would like the candidates to discuss at 28%, followed closely by the economy and healthcare. Among voters who mentioned the Iraq war, a third backed Kerry, while a quarter supported Clark and nearly a quarter backed Dean. And voters who cited the economy as an important issue somewhat split their vote between Kerry (31%) and Clark (26%). Kerry received the support of those who mentioned healthcare (37%).

In order to pay for expanding access to healthcare, more than half of voters would prefer a Democratic nominee who wants to repeal tax cuts for the rich, while a third want a nominee to repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. A sizable plurality of voters in Arizona said that trade agreements like NAFTA hurt the economy and take jobs away from the American people, while more than a third believe these free trade agreements help the economy and generate new jobs.

Illegal immigration is a concern for many of the bordering states to Mexico and Arizona is one of those states. This could be an issue in the November election. President Bush proposed legislation that would give amnesty to illegal immigrants already working in the U.S. More than three-fifths of voters do not want a Democratic nominee that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Nearly three out of five voters preferred a Democratic nominee who supports civil unions between same-sex couples that are not marriages.

Presidential qualifications: Nearly three in 10 likely voters believe that John Kerry is the most qualified to become commander-in-chief, while almost the same share of voters believe Wesley Clark has that distinction. Roughly a fifth are not sure which of the candidates would be best qualified. Three-quarters of Clark supporters think he would be best at commander-in-chief, while 72% of Kerry supporters think their candidate has that qualification. Nearly three out of 10 voters also think Kerry has the best temperament to be president, while almost a fifth think Clark does. But a fifth are undecided. Interestingly, Dean is running his campaign as the candidate of change and as an outsider. Yet, 22% of voters believe Kerry will substantially change the way things are done in Washington DC, while 12% cite Dean. Sixteen percent of voters think that Clark is the candidate of change.

Some Demographic Comparisons:

—More men are Kerry (27%) and Clark (23%) supporters; women are supporting Kerry at 31%

—The less affluent (households with less than $40,000) split their vote between Clark (23%) and Kerry (26%), while the more affluent are backing Kerry (31%)

—Self-described Democratic voters are for Kerry (32%) while those who described themselves as independents are splitting their vote between Clark and Kerry

—Self-described liberals are decidedly for Kerry (37%), while those who described themselves as moderates are backing Clark (31%)

—The younger voters (18-44) are more inclined to support Clark, while the older voters are somewhat more inclined to support Kerry

—Voters with less than a college degree are split between Clark (26%) and Kerry 25%), while the more educated are solidly behind Kerry (37%)

Other issues and President Bush: As with Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Arizona voters felt the same way about the Republican president and where the country is headed. Three quarters of likely Democratic voters disapproved of the way Bush is handling his job as president and almost the same share of voters believe the country is seriously off in the wrong direction. Most Democratic voters also agree that Democratic leaders in Washington have failed to stand up aggressively enough to President Bush.

South Carolina

With only a few days left before next Tuesday’s state primary in South Carolina where 45 delegates are at stake, Edwards edges Kerry 32% to 20% among Democratic likely voters in the state where he was born, a lead outside the poll’s 5 percentage point margin of error. Edwards has stated that South Carolina is a state he “can and should win” after coming in second in Iowa and tied for third with Clark in New Hampshire, but this survey indicates that such an outcome is anything but certain. Almost a quarter of South Carolina voters have yet to choose a candidate and just under two in five who did name someone indicated they might yet vote for someone else. In addition, the Los Angeles Times’ exit poll in New Hampshire found that more than two in five voters made up their minds how they would vote over the weekend or on the day of the election itself. Those voters’ choices would not have been included in pre-election polling.

The rest of the candidates, including Dean, remain in single digits among most subgroups of voters. Among blacks, however, Sharpton garners about one out of every 10 votes, while they split evenly between Edwards and Kerry at 19% each. Blacks are a critical voting bloc in South Carolina but have not aligned fully behind one candidate. A third of blacks are still undecided. Kerry recently courted and won the endorsement of Rep. James E. Clyburn, a popular black politician in the state. This endorsement, along with an earlier one from longtime Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings may help Kerry give Edwards a run for his money.

South Carolina is still largely mired in an economic downturn—the states’ economic woes have lingered months after recovery has been underway in much of the rest of the country. Reflecting that, two out of three voters said the country is seriously off on the wrong track. However, South Carolina voters are focused on other issues as well. Roughly as many voters mentioned healthcare and the Iraq war as mentioned jobs or the economy when asked what issues they’d most like to hear presidential candidates discuss – about one in five each mentioned one or more of those issues. About one in ten mentioned education. Among those who mentioned jobs as their main concern – which is an important issue in that state – Edwards beats Kerry by thirteen points.

There is little consensus in the state as to what likely voters are looking for in a candidate. Just about one in ten each mentioned liking their candidate’s southern roots, his charisma, leadership ability and/or military background as being the qualities they most admire. One in six of Kerry’s voters said they chose him because he can win in November and 12% each cited his stand on healthcare and his military background. A quarter of Edwards’ voters chose him because he is from the south and 12% said they liked his charisma.

Those choosing someone from the south or based on charisma picked Edwards, Clark picked up the most votes among those citing military background, and people wanting leadership were divided evenly across the candidates.

Kerry’s second win in New Hampshire following his decisive first place in Iowa provided a definite bounce for his candidacy, with over one third of his supporters saying that his win in New Hampshire played at least a minor role in their selection of him. Overall, 16% said that the New Hampshire primary played at least some role in their selection of a candidate, while 83% said it made no difference.

Almost half of S.C. voters would like to repeal only those tax cuts which affect the rich, compared to a third who would like taxes cut across the board. Just under three in five said they’d like a candidate who takes a dim view of free trade, and three out of four would prefer their candidate to oppose easing the way for illegal immigrants to become citizens. Southerners are out of step with their northern counterparts when it comes to same-sex unions: Only 35% want a candidate who supports civil unions that are not marriages but which provide similar legal protections while 56% do not. Half would prefer a candidate who opposes the war in Iraq, but 72% said they would vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on this matter.

How The Candidates Run in South Carolina

Overall, more than four in ten South Carolina voters chose either Clark (22%) or Kerry (22%) as the candidate who would make the best commander in chief; voters likewise were nearly split between Edwards and Kerry at 29% and 24% respectively when it came to who had the best temperament for the job of president; and split again between those candidates at 20% each when asked who would bring change to Washington.

Kerry virtually ties Edwards 28% to 27% among Democrats but the smaller group of independents who said they are planning to vote in the Democratic primary choose Edwards by more than three to one over Kerry. Edwards edges Kerry among men and women, the more and less affluent, among whites, and across the spectrum of ideology. Younger and older voters are behind him, and both the college educated and those without degrees.

Edwards’ support is fairly broad, but his supporters expressed a less than rock hard confidence in his ability to shoulder the duties of the presidency. Only roughly one third of his supporters said Edwards would be the best of all the candidates to be commander-in-chief while just over a third pointed to either Clark (20%) or Kerry (15%). He did better when it comes to having the temperament to be president. Nearly seven in ten said their man would be best in that way while 11% chose Lieberman. Just over half (54%) of Edwards’ supporters chose their candidate as the best to bring change to Washington but 12% of Edwards’ supporters chose Kerry. More than three in five Kerry supporters said Kerry would be the best commander-in-chief, 73% said he’s got the best temperament, and three in five said he’d be best to get things done in Washington.

Overall, South Carolina voters split between Clark and Kerry at 22% each when choosing the best commander-in-chief, with 14% choosing Edwards. Nearly one in three (29%) said Edwards has the best temperament, while 24% said Kerry does and about one in 10 each chose Clark or Lieberman. One in five each chose Kerry or Edwards as the candidate who can bring change to Washington, while 13% chose Dean.

Missouri

When Rep. Richard A. Gephardt pulled the plug on his candidacy after a disappointing fourth place finish in Iowa, his home state’s 74 delegates were suddenly in play. Missouri has the most delegates up for grabs of any of the February 3rd contests. Edwards has been playing up his southern roots as he campaigns in the state, but this survey found Kerry well ahead across virtually the entire spectrum of likely Democratic primary voters in Missouri and thus currently in the best position to benefit from Gephardt’s decision to end his candidacy. Kerry has been endorsed by former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan.

Kerry outpolled his nearest rival Edwards by more than three to one over the survey period. He garnered 37% of the vote to Edwards’ 11%. Dean received 7% of the vote, while Clark got 6%, Lieberman 6%, Sharpton 2% and Kucinich less than 1%. Even with as wide a lead as Kerry has, the outcome of this race is still being worked out. Fully 30% of the electorate remains undecided, and two in five of those who did select a candidate indicated they might yet choose someone else, including 36% of Kerry’s supporters.

Yet, Kerry dominates in all measured subgroups of voters across the state. Missouri likely Democratic voters chose Kerry over Clark by 36% to 13% when asked which candidate would be the best commander-in-chief, including nearly four out of five of his own supporters. Kerry led Edwards 34% to 13% as the voter’s choice as the candidate with the best temperament to be president, and was endorsed by more than seven in 10 of his own supporters. He again led Edwards by 28% to 10% when it came to choosing the candidate who can change the way things are done in Washington, and garnered the vote of two out of three of his own supporters.

Voters in Missouri said they would like the candidates to focus on the issue of healthcare (24%), followed by the economy (17%) and the Iraq war (10%) and jobs, education and Medicare (9% each) and Kerry leads among those who cited one or more of those issues as their top concerns. Kerry also leads among men and women, and across the spectrum of ideology and regardless of age, income, and education.

Nearly half of Missouri voters prefer a candidate who favors repealing tax cuts only for the wealthiest families while 28% would like all tax cuts repealed. Forty-four percent would like to back a candidate who believes that trade agreements like NAFTA hurt the U.S. economy while 31% picked one who thinks free trade generates U.S. jobs. Three in five said they would like their candidate to oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship, while 27% said the opposite. A majority of voters do not want their candidate to endorse civil unions for same sex couples, breaking 55% to 35% against it.

How the Poll Was Conducted

The Los Angeles Times/CNN Poll contacted 3,769 adults in Arizona, South Carolina and Missouri, including 451 likely Democratic primary voters in Arizona, 448 in South Carolina and 545 in Missouri, by telephone Jan. 28 – 30, 2004. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in each of these three states. Random digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and unlisted numbers were contacted. Each state sample of adults was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age and education in each of the three states. The margin of sampling error for likely Democratic primary voters in Arizona and South Carolina is plus or minus 5 percentage points; and for Missouri voters it is 4 points. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish in Arizona. Interviewing in Missouri was conducted by Interviewing Service of America, Inc., Van Nuys, Calif.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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