Churchgoers, White Men Strongly Support Bush; Moral Values, Terrorism Ranked Big among Backers

Article excerpt

Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush won a majority of white men, churchgoers and white, born-again Christians, while John Kerry drew his strongest backing from blacks and led among Hispanics, according to voter exit polls yesterday.

Bush voters said moral values and the war on terrorism were what mattered most to them, but roughly half of those polled said the economy in their communities is worse now than it was four years ago, and they went overwhelmingly for Mr. Kerry.

Three-fourths of those who filled out polling questionnaires at voting places around the country said they worried about another terrorist attack. About half of them voted for Mr. Bush and half for Mr. Kerry. Young voters favored Mr. Kerry over Mr. Bush by 15 points.

Notably, the poll found that the president was the major motivating factor behind Mr. Kerry's overall vote. Seventy-four percent of the senator's supporters said their dislike of Mr. Bush was the primary reason for backing the Massachusetts Democrat.

Despite Mr. Kerry's heavy emphasis on his wartime experiences in Vietnam, military veterans went strongly for Mr. Bush, as did independents and rural voters.

The exit polls, conducted for the Associated Press, generally reflected voter surveys that preceded the election and painted a picture of an electorate split down the middle about the state of the economy and the situation in Iraq. As earlier polls showed, voters who liked Mr. Bush's policies in both these areas supported him and those who didn't sided strongly with Mr. Kerry.

Bush voters named strong leadership and taking a clear, unambiguous stand on the issues as the qualities they most admired in the president. About half of all voters interviewed said that most of the time Mr. Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear.

Half the voters polled said the president paid too much attention to the interests of big business and not enough to the needs of ordinary Americans, and that they voted for Mr. Kerry because "he will bring about needed change."

The chief issue for Kerry voters was the economy and jobs, an issue the Massachusetts Democrat chose not to emphasize in the closing weeks of his campaign, which focused far more on Iraq than economic concerns.

About four of 10 voters who said their financial well-being went largely unchanged over the last four years strongly supported Mr. Kerry. The rest were evenly split between being better off and worse off.

Notably, voters were about evenly divided about whether they approved or disapproved of the postwar situation in Iraq, but those who said things were going badly there strongly backed Mr. Kerry.

Long lines of voters showed up at polling places around the country in a fiercely fought election that analysts predicted could bring out as many as 125 million people, many of them first-time voters who were drawn into the electoral process by massive registration drives by both campaigns. …