What voters want: values and change

RELIGION played a huge role in Mike Huckabee’s triumph in the Iowa Republican caucuses, although there are some mixed signals for him on the road ahead.

On the Democratic side, it was fresh blood — and an outcry for change — that helped propel Barack Obama to his victory in the state.

Eight out of 10 Huckabee supporters said they are Born Again or Evangelical Christians, according to an entrance poll for The Associated Press and television networks. Six out of 10 said it was very important to share their candidate’s religious beliefs. In both categories, none of the former Arkansas governor’s opponents came close to that kind of support.

In addition, six out of 10 Huckabee supporters — more than his rivals — said it was most important that their candidate shared their values. Only 4% of his backers said they wanted a contender with experience and 2% said they were looking for a Republican who can win the White House in November.

On the Democratic side, more than a third of Obama’s support was from voters under the age of 30, eclipsing Hillary Clinton and John Edwards among the young, according to those entering the caucuses. In contrast, more than a third of Clinton’s vote came from people age 65 and older, far more than her top rivals.

More than half of Edwards’ supporters were veteran caucus-goers, while most of Clinton’s and Obama’s backers were first- timers. And a desire for change was like a rocket booster for Obama — half of Democrats said the ability to force change was the pivotal factor in picking a candidate, and half of them backed the youthful Illinois senator.

For both Iowa winners though, the momentum they gained will be tested.

With New Hampshire’s primaries next Tuesday, the campaign’s next stop is a state where only about one in five Republican voters are Born Again or Evangelical Christians — about one-third of the number who claimed that status among Iowa Republicans.

While 46% of Iowa’s born again or evangelical Republican voters backed Huckabee, a slight majority did not, indicating a willingness to support candidates other than the ordained Baptist minister who has made religion a centrepiece of his campaign. Mitt Romney, former governor of New Hampshire’s neighbour, Massachusetts, got one in five of those votes in Iowa.

Huckabee dominated among Iowa conservatives overall, winning about a third of their vote, compared to about a quarter for Romney. Yet most of that support came from conservatives who are also born again or evangelical. Nearly half of them voted for Huckabee, compared to less than a fifth of other conservatives who supported him.

Huckabee trailed John McCain, and was even with Romney, among the one in 10 at the Republican caucuses who say they are independents.

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