NPR logo Women, Seniors and Blue-Collar Voters Boost Clinton

Election 2008

Women, Seniors and Blue-Collar Voters Boost Clinton

Voters cast their ballots in the presidential primary on April 22, 2008, in Butler, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images hide caption

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Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton got out the voters she needed in Pennsylvania. White women, senior citizens, union members and people earning under $50,000 a year came out in strong numbers to help her secure an important win, according to exit polls.

As in past contests, voters' support was split along the familiar fault lines of gender, race, age and class. But this time there was a key difference: The New York senator won the support of white men, who have been swing voters in previous primaries and caucuses. Overall, 60 percent of white men and women voted for her.

Newly registered voters, African-Americans and the well-educated and affluent came out for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, exit polls show. He also did well with voters clustered in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, winning the support of 60 percent of Democratic voters. Ninety percent of African-American voters also supported him.

The Keystone State's demographics had been expected to favor Clinton, based on her performance in other primaries in states such as New Hampshire and Ohio. Fifteen percent of Pennsylvania's population is over 65, and the only states with a higher ratio of senior citizens are Florida and West Virginia.

Nearly half of Clinton's supporters Tuesday came from families earning less than $50,000 a year, and two-thirds of the men who voted for her do not have a college degree. Clinton also led in blue-collar swaths of the state, including Scranton and Pittsburgh.

The economy was a major factor for Pennsylvania voters, with 50 percent calling it the country's biggest problem.

Despite the candidates' last-minute campaign blitzes throughout the state and the recent tenor of negative ads, roughly two-thirds of the Pennsylvania voters had made up their minds about which candidate to support over a week ago, according to exit polls.

The Pennsylvania exit poll was conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison-Mitofsky. The findings are based on interviews with roughly 2,100 Democratic primary voters across the state.

Voter turnout was high throughout the day. The primary was open only to Democrats. About 10 percent of voters changed their party affiliation to participate, according to the exit poll data. About half of those who had switched had been registered Republicans, while the remainder had not been affiliated with either party.

With Clinton's victory and with no clear-cut Democratic Party nominee, the candidates will now turn their attention to the upcoming contests in North Carolina and Indiana on May 6.