Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Primary Voters Cite Economy As Top Issue

Voters Cite Economy as Top Issue

By PETER Journal

For all the attention paid to social issues in the run-up to two state primaries Tuesday night, voters in Michigan and Arizona identified the economy as their overriding concern—a preference that stood to benefit Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

According to exit polls, Republican primary voters in Michigan and Arizona are most concerned with the economy. WSJ reporter Joe White has been talking with voters in Michigan and shares what he learned with Deputy Managing Editor Alan Murray.

Polls in Michigan and in most of Arizona saw supporters of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spar over efforts by Santorum to get Democrats to vote in Michigan's contest. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

John Tamny, Editor of RealClearMarkets, talks about how Republican Primary talking points sounds a lot like class warfare. He points out weakness in Mitt Romney's and Rick Santorum's proposed economic policies.

Surveys of voters as they left polling places in those two states ranked the economy as the most important issue in the race, far above abortion and immigration. Mr. Romney has staked his campaign on his business acumen and promise to revive the troubled economy. Some social conservative have been suspicious of him because of his previous support for abortion rights.

In the Michigan primary, Mr. Romney's top rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, solicited votes from Democrats looking to embarrass Mr. Romney in his home state. About 1 in 10 primary voters were Democrats, according to exit-poll data released by various media outlets. Of those voters, half backed Mr. Santorum, compared with 15% for Mr. Romney.

Before the election, Santorum's campaign had put out automated phone calls seeking votes from Democrats, who are allowed to vote in the GOP primary.

Exit polls showed that Michigan voters disapproved of the government's bailout of the auto industry by a margin of 51% to 43%. All four leading GOP candidates opposed the bailouts, but Mr. Romney was most vocal in his opposition, making it a central element of his campaign in Michigan.

What voters wanted in a candidate was someone who could beat President Barack Obama in the fall. Electability ranked ahead of a candidate's experience, moral character and conservatism as qualities important to voters, exit polls showed.

Those who turned out to vote tended to be wealthier than the general population, another dynamic that worked in Mr. Romney's favor. His support has been strongest among upper-income voters in prior nominating contests. About 3 in 10 voters had household incomes topping $100,000 a year.

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