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Pew's Kohut Discusses Exit Polling


Voters have been going to the polls in New Hampshire since seven o'clock this morning. Just in the past hour or so, we've gotten a first look at exit polls conducted for the National Election Pool. And for a bit of what they tell us, I'm joined now in the studio by Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. Andy, good to see you again.

ANDREW KOHUT: Hi, Melissa.

BLOCK: What are you hearing? What are you finding about who turned out today?

KOHUT: Well, it's a very distinctive electorate as GOP electorates go. It's very moderate. Only 49 percent of the people who cast a ballot were tested in the exit polls and they're Republicans. A week ago, 74 percent of the caucusgoers in Iowa are Republicans. And 40 years ago, an even larger number, 61 percent compared to 49 percent today said they were Republicans. And they're conservative, a majority of them.

But most of them describe themselves, 66 percent is fiscal conservatives, relatively few say they're social conservatives. And that's because the percentage of this electorate that is white evangelical or evangelical is pretty small. It's just 23 percent, 77 percent say, no, I'm not an evangelical. In Iowa, a majority were evangelicals. So, it's conservative but kind of temperate conservative, fiscal conservative rather than more social conservative.

BLOCK: Yeah. And this fiscal conservative, I can anticipate what issues were top on their mind as they went to the polls today.

KOHUT: When they went to the polls, the number one thing they said was the economy, 60 percent. Number two was the deficits. So there's 85 percent saying that was the issue that mattered most to them. Again, more concern about the economy than we saw a week ago. A little less concern about the deficit.

What they were looking for were two things. They wanted a candidate best able to defeat, 33 percent said that that's what they were looking for. Secondly, they said the candidate who had the right experience, 27 percent. Relatively few, 14 percent, said we're looking for a true conservative. A week ago in Iowa, 24 percent said true conservative. So we have quite - this is quite a different electorate. It's different than Iowa. It's different than many of the primaries that we're going to be studying.

BLOCK: OK. Andy, thank you so much.

KOHUT: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.