Conservatives Side with Bush, Poll Shows

Article excerpt

Al Gore may have to work harder in Oklahoma than in some other Southern states to pick up the vote of conservative Democrats in his race against George W. Bush, an exit poll taken in the presidential primary shows.

Gore and Bush swept their respective primaries Tuesday in Oklahoma, winning over men and women, young and old, poor and rich voters.

Gore picked up the votes of moderates and liberals but showed weakness among the one-quarter of Oklahoma Democrats who consider themselves conservatives. He trailed with that group behind Bill Bradley, who withdrew from the race last week but still managed to win one in four Democratic votes.

About two-thirds of conservative Oklahoma Democrats said they would choose Bush over Gore in November, the biggest bloc to back Bush among conservative Democrats in six Southern states holding primaries Tuesday, the exit poll showed.

"I voted against Gore," said Marvin Margo, who cast his ballot for Bradley. He left an Oklahoma City precinct in a light drizzle, saying that Oklahoma's closed primary meant he couldn't vote for his November choice -- Bush.

Oklahoma Democrats also gave President Clinton the worst job approval rating in any U.S. primary this year, according to the Voter News Service poll taken for The Associated Press and television networks.

One-third of all Democratic voters disapproved of Clinton's performance, and about 60 percent of those voters backed Bradley.

About 70 percent of all GOP voters identified themselves as conservatives and 80 percent of them voted for Bush, the poll showed. Bush did just as well among the four in 10 voters who identified themselves as members of the conservative Christian movement known as the religious right. …