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Inside Politics

Caucus-goers say Kerry's experience adds up

Most who voted in Iowa called selves liberals, polls show

Democrats gather at a caucus in Dubuque, Iowa.
Democrats gather at a caucus in Dubuque, Iowa.

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(CNN) -- Although Sen. John Kerry did well in all the categories that Iowa Democrats said were important qualities for a candidate, he blew the others off the field when it came to experience, according to caucus entrance polls Monday.

Of those caucus-goers surveyed who said experience was the most important quality for a Democratic presidential candidate, 71 percent chose Kerry, while only 5 percent chose former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and only 2 percent thought Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina had enough experience.

And of the Iowa Democratic voters with the most life experience -- seniors -- 43 percent declared Kerry their choice of the candidates, while 23 percent went for Edwards and 15 percent for Dean.

Caucus-goers were surveyed before they entered 50 of the state's 1,993 caucus sites, in schools, private homes, YMCAs and other locations. The polls were conducted by two firms, Edison Research and Mitofsky International, for a consortium of major news organizations.

Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, was also the choice of 37 percent of those who thought the ability to beat Bush in November was most important, compared to Edward's 30 percent and Dean's 21 percent.

Dean led the pack when it came to the caucus-goers' belief in which candidate would be able to take strong stands on the issues. Dean was the choice of 31 percent, to Kerry's 26 percent and Edwards' 23 percent.

But Edwards was the winner when the most important quality was "caring about people like me." Those caucus-goers picked Edwards by 41 percent, to Kerry's 23 percent and Dean's 15 percent.

Education was the main issue for only 14 percent of caucus-goers, and the war in Iraq trailed at 13 percent. Farm policy got the least attention, with only 2 percent of the Democratic caucus voters saying it was the most important issue.

And who were the people voting in the caucuses?

According to the incomplete poll numbers, 57 percent identified themselves as liberals, 37 percent as moderates and six percent as conservatives.

Women outnumbered men 54 percent to 46 percent. Seventy-three percent were under 65, and 27 percent were older.

Voters were somewhat evenly divided along income and education. Forty-five percent had no college degree, while 55 percent had graduated from college. Fifty-three percent said their family income was under $50,000, and 47 percent earned more than that.

More than three-quarters said they were not a union household.

Almost two-thirds of those at the caucuses said they were strong Democrats,15 percent were not-so-strong Democrats and 19 percent were independents. And 1 percent of those attending the Democratic caucuses described themselves as Republicans. That is possible because anyone is allowed to vote at the caucuses so long as they register as a Democrat.

Dean's much-heralded use of the Internet to attract supporters and money may not have helped him much in Iowa, where 60 percent of caucus-goers said they did not use the Internet.

And despite some candidates racing from gathering to gathering of potential voters last week hoping to influence a few more, 56 percent of those polled said they had made up their mind before then.

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