WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bernie Sanders won the young, the liberal and the disaffected in New Hampshire. Their votes were enough to deliver him a victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary, while Pete Buttigieg earned a slight edge among more moderate and conservative voters, with Amy Klobuchar close behind.
The New Hampshire Democratic primary revealed a mountainous ideological divide among Democrats, as voters try to identify which candidate will be most effective in challenging President Donald Trump in November's general election.
A majority of voters who considered themselves “very liberal” supported Sanders, according to AP VoteCast. The 78-year-old Vermont senator, who has championed universal government health care and high taxes on the wealthy, also won support from voters younger than 45 and had a slight advantage among those without a college degree. Three in 10 of those who deemed the U.S. economic system “very unfair" favor Sanders to oversee the world's leading financial power.
But about 6 in 10 New Hampshire Democrats identified as moderate or conservative. Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held a slight advantage with this group of voters. Roughly another quarter of moderate and conservative voters went with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, while about 1 in 10 went for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders are avowed liberals.
AP VoteCast is a wide-ranging survey of more than 3,000 Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
The scrum of conflicting ideologies could set up a bruising round of election contests in the weeks ahead as Democratic voters choose whether it is better to lean into an overtly liberal contender or embrace a more moderate challenger. And once the nominee is picked, it is unclear whether the Democrats can fully set aside their differences and bond back together.
Only 15% of New Hampshire Democrats said they were “very confident” that the process for picking a presidential nominee would be fair, a sign of possible doubts lingering in voters' minds at the state’s Tuesday primary.
The trouble tabulating results in last week’s Iowa caucuses, an issue that has yet to be fully resolved, may have rattled the faith of some voters amid uncertainty about who is the Democratic front-runner. The skepticism was clearest among Sanders' backers, with 6 in 10 saying they had little or no confidence in the Democratic primary process. Majorities of voters for every other top Democratic contender described the primary process as fair.
The results from AP VoteCast suggest that Sanders' younger and generally more liberal supporters distrust their fellow Democrats, a potential reflection of the Vermont senator losing the 2016 nomination to Hillary Clinton.
Matthew Gage, a 40-year-old EMT attending a Sanders party in Manchester, New Hampshire, said he was angered by the use of super delegates in the 2016 election and remains "suspicious" that the process is fair this time around.
This year, he said, "I have more confidence only because there's more eyes watching them and they know they can’t hide stuff."
Yet after months of campaigns and debates, New Hampshire voters were still settling on the ideal moderate choice. Of the state Democrats who made a decision in the days before the primary, just over half went to Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
The only clear candidate on the outs in a state that is largely white and older was Biden. He departed Tuesday for South Carolina, where there is a significant population of African American voters who will test which candidate appeals most to a diverse electorate that was largely absent from the opening two contests.
Voters see liabilities in many of the Democrats vying to run against Trump. About 6 in 10 said a candidate with strongly liberal views would have difficulty competing with the incumbent president, evidence that Sanders and Warren may be struggling to make the electability argument outside their base of supporters. But 6 in 10 also said a gay nominee — Buttigieg — would face greater hardship in the general election.
Still, New Hampshire Democrats say they are willing to rally around their party's nominee. At least 6 in 10 said they would be satisfied with Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders or Warren as their presidential candidate. Fewer — about half — said they would be pleased if Biden became the nominee.
Broader questions about fairness in U.S. society have been a central concern for the Democratic candidates.
An overwhelming share of New Hampshire Democrats — nearly 8 in 10 — view the economy as unfair. But there is little consensus on which candidate would do the best job of stewarding the world’s largest economy.
Yet among the roughly 2 in 10 who believe the economy is fair, there was an opening for a Democrat whose name was not on the ballot in New Hampshire. These voters gave a slight edge on leading the economy to Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor with a personal fortune in excess of $60 billion.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Manchester, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 3,111 voters in New Hampshire was conducted for seven days, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The survey is based on interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.
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