Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was strongly supported by Hispanics and people seeking an experienced candidate, but Barack Obama was eating into her usual dominance of women and whites, in early national exit polls Tuesday. A coalition of black, young, white and higher-income voters were flocking to Obama.
On the Republican side, preliminary data from exit polls of voters in 16 states showed John McCain getting broad support, including strong backing from moderates and people valuing experience and leadership. Mitt Romney had an advantage with the GOP's most conservative voters and people wanting a strong stance against illegal immigrants.
Obama was getting support from more than four in 10 women and about the same number of whites, leaving him just a few percentage points behind Clinton. That was a narrower deficit than he has faced in most states that have held nominating contests so far, with part of his strength coming from people under age 44, whom he was dominating.
"I think Obama can bring a more radical change," said Linda Ster, 44, a social worker in Nashville. "I have voted for a Clinton already. I want something different - way different - this time."
Obama was leading with liberals and had a modest advantage among white men, a group from which he has seldom received strong backing. Former Sen. John Edwards' decision to leave the race last week may have helped Obama with those voters. Obama and Clinton were about even with moderate and conservative Democrats.
Clinton had a clear lead with white women, with older white and Hispanic voters, and with lower educated and low-income people.
In a sign of McCain's broad support, he had an edge over his GOP rivals among men, older voters, veterans and Hispanics, according to preliminary national figures from exit polls. He also led among people saying they are somewhat conservative, Republicans who disapprove of the way the war in Iraq is going, and those who were not white evangelical or born-again Christians.
"I think he's the guy that can see the big picture," Heather Holliday, 28, a sales executive in Chicago, said of McCain.
The preliminary results came from exit polling by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International conducted for the Associated Press and television networks. The partial samples came from more than 400 precincts across 16 states with primaries on Tuesday.
Included were interviews with 14,143 Democratic primary voters and 8,983 GOP voters. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1 percentage point for Democrats and 2 points for Republicans. Also included was a poll conducted by telephone in Arizona, California and Tennessee to determine the views of early and absentee voters.