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Exit polls: Women push Clinton to New Hampshire win

  • Story Highlights
  • Women's votes push Clinton to top in New Hampshire
  • McCain topped Romney by 12 percentage points among independents
  • McCain dominates among voters who disapprove of war in Iraq
  • Democrats put issues as main consideration; Republicans, personal qualities
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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Women pushed Hillary Clinton to victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary while independent voters pushed Arizona Sen. John McCain to the top spot among Republicans, exit polls show.

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Voters line up to cast ballots in the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday.

Women, who accounted for 57 percent of those who voted in the Democratic primary, went for Clinton 47 percent to 34 percent for the second-place finisher, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama; men conversely tilted to Obama, 42 percent to 30 percent.

Clinton also held ground among registered Democrats, topping Obama 45 percent to 33 percent, while Obama grabbed more independents voting in the Democratic primary, 41 percent to 34 percent.

While Clinton edged Obama by 3 percentage points among the 17 percent of voters who decided their votes on the last day, she was helped more by those who stuck with her over the course of the campaign. Thirty-four percent of voters said they hadn't changed their minds in the past month; Clinton topped Obama 48 percent to 31 percent among that group.

Meanwhile, exit polls showed 37 percent of those who cast a Republican ballot Tuesday identified themselves as independents, and McCain got the votes of 39 percent of them, compared with 27 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who finished second Tuesday. Romney and McCain were almost even among those who identified themselves as Republicans, with 33 and 34 percent, respectively.

I-Reporter Bob Sinkiewicz, an independent, said he was tempted to cast a Democratic ballot for Obama, but was swayed by McCain's experience and consistent message.

"I think [Obama] got a bye on a lot of tough questions, too," he said.

McCain's high standing with independents was reminiscent of his performance in the 2000 GOP primary in New Hampshire.

Although George Bush beat McCain among registered Republicans that year, independents, who accounted for 41 percent of the total GOP turnout, handed McCain the win. Video Watch as McCain supporters cheer his projected victory Tuesday »

McCain last year bucked public opinion with his full-throated support of President Bush's commitment of nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq at a time when a solid majority of Americans had turned against the 4-year-old war.

McCain had called for more troops for Iraq as early as 2004, and he was a vociferous critic of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down after GOP losses in the 2006 congressional elections.

Exit polls found 64 percent of Tuesday's Republican voters still support the conflict -- and Romney, whose criticism of Bush's management of the war has been muted, led McCain among those voters. But among the 34 percent who said they disapproved of the war, McCain had a wide advantage over the GOP field -- even over Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the sole advocate of a U.S. withdrawal in the Republican field.

In Tuesday's primaries, both Democrats and Republicans rated the economy as the most important issue in the primaries, and almost all voters said they were worried about it, exit polls show.

But an overwhelming majority in both parties said their families weren't in tough financial times.

Ninety-eight percent of Democrats said they were worried about the economy. And 87 percent of Democrats rated the economy as not good or poor, according to exit polls. But they were more positive about their personal economic circumstances, with 59 percent saying they were holding steady and 14 percent saying they were getting ahead.

Among GOP voters, 79 percent said they were worried about the economy. And just 51 percent rated the nation's economy as excellent or good, but an overwhelming majority said their family was holding steady financially (58 percent) or getting ahead (21 percent).

Despite their economic circumstances, dissatisfaction with the Bush administration was clearly evident in both Democratic and Republican voters.

Almost two-thirds of Democrats polled (65 percent) said they were "angry" with the Bush administration. And almost half of Republicans, (49 percent) said they were angry or dissatisfied with the Bush administration.

Many voters decided on their candidates late in the process, the polls showed, with 18 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats saying they settled on a candidate on the day of the primary.

A majority of Democrats said the issues were the most important factor in how they voted, while most Republicans said the candidates' personal qualities were most important to their decision.

The war in Iraq was the second most important issue for voters in both parties -- but concerns about illegal immigration rated third among Republicans, while Democrats said health care was just behind Iraq.

In last week's Iowa caucuses, evangelical Christian voters provided the margin of victory for former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. But they make up a smaller portion of the electorate in New Hampshire, where Huckabee ran third in pre-election polls.

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Compared with the Iowa caucuses, where 60 percent of Republicans described themselves as evangelicals, exit polls in New Hampshire put evangelical turnout at about 21 percent.

Among those evangelical voters, Huckabee got only 32 percent, while McCain got 31 percent. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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