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Exit poll shows whites back Clinton, blacks support Obama

Blacks gave Barack Obama overwhelming support while whites lined up strongly behind Hillary Rodham Clinton in Mississippi's Democratic presidential primary.
AP | By HT Correspondent, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2008 08:23 AM IST

Blacks gave Barack Obama overwhelming support while whites lined up strongly behind Hillary Rodham Clinton in Mississippi's Democratic presidential primary, making it one of the most racially divided of all the party's contests this year. Nine in 10 blacks were backing Obama, while seven in 10 whites were voting for Clinton, according to interviews with voters leaving polling places. That gave Obama the edge because those voting were split about evenly between the two races.

While Obama, an Illinois senator, has typically received lopsided numbers of black votes and Clinton, a New York senator, generally has won among whites, Tuesday's racial polarization was stark. Only in two other states have more than seven in 10 whites backed Clinton, and both were in the South next-door Alabama and Arkansas, where she was first lady while her husband, Bill Clinton, was governor.

Four in 10 blacks said race was important in choosing their candidate. Of that group, nine in 10 supported Obama. Among whites, a quarter said race was in important factor in deciding their vote. Nine in 10 of them voted for Clinton. White men and women alike were voting heavily for Clinton. While she has consistently dominated among white women, the two have split the allegiance of white men about equally overall and Obama has had some strong performances with them since the Super Tuesday voting on Feb. 5.

Clinton was doing better than usual across virtually all categories of white voters, including those who are college graduates, earn at least $50,000 (euro32,500) a year, independents and self-identified Democrats.

Overall, more than six in 10 Mississippi voters voiced contentment with either Clinton or Obama as the eventual nominee, with only a bit more saying they would be satisfied with Obama. Just over half said they thought Obama should pick Clinton as his vice presidential running mate, and about an equal number said she should pick Obama. Obama was viewed as the more inspirational, the more honest and likelier to defeat Republican Sen. John McCain in November.

Obama's supporters, though, had more favorable views of Clinton than hers did of him.

Four in 10 Obama supporters said they would be satisfied if Clinton wins the nomination, while only a quarter of hers said the same about Obama. And while almost half of Obama's voters said Clinton has offered detailed plans to address the major issues, only one in five Clinton backers said the same about Obama. On the Republican side, McCain who has locked up his party's nomination _ was easily carrying loyal Republicans, conservatives and white, born-again and evangelical Christians. Yet nearly one in five said they were dissatisfied with him as the nominee, while four in 10 said he is not conservative enough.

The figures came from partial samples of a survey of voters conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Voters were interviewed at 35 voting places across Mississippi.

Those interviewed included 980 Democrats and 390 Republicans. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points for Democrats and plus or minus 7 percentage points for Republicans.

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