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What Matters to Voters Depends on the Party

The three leading Republican candidates draw support from three different ideologically oriented support bases, but experience counts for more in the Democratic race, according to a national survey conducted Jan. 9-13 and released today by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

McCain’s support from moderate to liberal Republicans and Republican-leaning voters is 41 percent, far higher than the 20 percent Huckabee receives from the same group or the 8 percent Romney does. Huckabee’s support among Evangelical Republicans and Republican-leaning conservatives outstrips McCain’s by 8 percentage points. And, Romney beats the other two candidates in polling among non-Evangelical Republicans and Republican-leaning conservatives.

In the Democratic race, though, the poll shows that Clinton’s involvement in her husband’s administration and Obama’s relative lack of experience in national politics will matter more to voters — both Democratic and Republican — than Clinton’s gender or Obama’s race. More than one-third of both Democratic and Republican voters believe that Clinton’s gender will hurt her candidacy, but more than 60 percent believe that her gender will either help her campaign or that it will make no difference. Fifty-four percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats believe that race will not make a difference in Obama’s campaign.

Clinton’s involvement in her husband’s administration is seen as more important than her gender – 53 percent of Democrats say it will help her, while 46 percent of Republicans say it will hurt. For both registered voters of both parties, Obama’s relative inexperience in national politics will be a bigger factor than his race. Forty-four percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans believe that Obama being relatively new to national politics will hurt him.

In this Pew poll, the total sample was 1,515, of which 1,255 were registered voters. The margin of error for both groups was ‘3 percentage points. The margin of error for the 499 registered Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents was ‘5 percentage points, and the margin of error for the 621 registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents was ‘4.5 percentage points.

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