Voters: Bush Is Best on Moral Values
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iowa Republicans who backed George W. Bush in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses said he was the best candidate to restore the nation’s moral values and viewed him as a strong leader who can win in November.
For the Democrats, key groups such as older voters, union members and those with lower incomes supported Al Gore over Bill Bradley, according to entrance polls. And although Bradley made health care a centerpiece of his campaign, Gore beat him almost 2-to-1 among Democrats who cared most about that issue.
Steve Forbes won the most support of those who thought taxes was the top issue. He had more than a 3-to-1 edge among those who picked abortion _ but only 1 in 10 called that their top issue. Forbes also scored well among people on a number of candidate qualities.
``Steve Forbes will be an absolute pit bull when it comes to downsizing government,″ said Sharlene Dunlap, 33, of Des Moines at the Forbes party. ``In international affairs, I think he knows all the issues and all the players.″
Despite Forbes’ attempts to paint himself as the choice of conservatives, Bush got the most support from those who described themselves as very conservative and somewhat conservative. Commentator Alan Keyes got the support of a fifth of the self-described very conservative group.
Forbes led among the 25 percent of caucus-goers who thought taxes were the top issue, getting half while Bush was close behind with the backing of four of 10.
Moral values were chosen as the top issue by a third of Iowa voters at the Republican caucuses, and more than a third of the voters in that group chose Bush. Keyes was chosen by almost three out of 10, twice the number who chose Forbes and Gary Bauer. Behind taxes, tied for third were abortion and the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. Bush led Forbes by more than 20 points among people who were most worried about Social Security and Medicare.
Forbes fared better than Bush among voters who said the most important candidate qualities were standing up for beliefs, caring about the average American and representing conservative values.
But Bush got the support of almost all of the roughly 10 percent of voters who said the most important quality was being able to win in November. And he got the support of more than half of the 13 percent who said being a strong leader was most important.
``I thought he’d do better,″ Bush supporter Monty Lockyear of West Des Moines said as he sipped a beer and watched a big-screen TV at a Bush party.
Gore built his winning coalition with a more than a 4-to-1 lead among the fifth of voters in the Democratic caucuses who thought strong and decisive leadership was the top quality. He also won more than 90 percent among another fifth of voters who thought having the right experience was most important.
The vice president won the support of a broad range of voters, with a 3-to-1 edge among people 60 and older, and almost a 4-to-1 edge among those who approved of President Clinton’s job performance.
Bradley, a former senator from New Jersey, fared best among voters who made more than $75,000. He split with Gore among the one in seven who described themselves as independents, and among the nearly half who had an unfavorable view of Clinton as a person.
Bradley led by more than 2-to-1 among those who disapproved of Clinton’s job performance, but fewer than a sixth of voters in the Democratic caucuses held that view.
He also had a strong showing among voters who cared most about having a candidate with new ideas, winning four out of five of those votes. But just 7 percent of Democrats thought that was the most important quality for a candidate.
About 16 percent of Democrats said health care was the most important issue. Among them, Gore took about 60 percent of the votes to Bradley’s 36 percent.
The most popular issues were Democratic mainstays _ education, Social Security and Medicare. Those who picked these issues also were more likely to vote for Gore.
The entrance polls were conducted by Voter News Service, a consortium of The Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC. VNS surveyed 1,700 voters in the GOP caucuses and 1,078 voters in the Democratic caucuses as they went into precincts Monday night. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the overall Democratic sample and 3 percentage points for Republicans, larger for subgroups of each.