Exit poll - Moral issues, religion key Bush win in Missouri

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- "God and country" issues helped President Bush carry Missouri, according to an Associated Press exit poll conducted Tuesday.

A quarter of all Missouri voters said moral concerns were the most important issue and the most frequently cited No. 1 issue. And nearly nine in 10 of those voters favored Bush over Democrat John Kerry, according to the poll of 2,158 voters conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Bush easily carried the religious vote and was favored by 19 in 20 voters who cited the candidates' strong religious faith as the personal quality that mattered most.

"I think he simply did very well because of God and country issues that play very well in Missouri," said Ken Warren, a political scientist at Saint Louis University. "Security mom sort of things -- patriotism and moral values."

That showed in the exit poll's gender breakdown. In 2000, Bush won handily among men but lost narrowly to Al Gore among women. This time, he had a slight advantage among both men and women.

Naomi Collier, a 69-year-old Greene County homemaker, voted for Bush.

"I believe he's a good Christian man and honest. All I ever heard Kerry say is, 'I have a plan,' but I never heard what his plan was," Collier said.

Bush, a Methodist, was favored by about six in 10 Protestants. Among white evangelical and born-again Christians, who made up about one-third of voters, Bush carried about three-quarters of the vote.

Meanwhile, Catholics were nearly evenly split between Bush and Kerry, who is Catholic.

In an Oct. 1 pastoral letter published in the archdiocesan newspaper, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke wrote that no Catholic should vote for a candidate who supports "intrinsically evil" acts that include abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and gay marriage. Bush opposes all of those, while Kerry is an abortion rights supporter, favors stem-cell research and said decisions on gay marriage should be left to the states.

About half of all Missouri Catholic voters came from St. Louis city or St. Louis County.

In the governor's race, Democrat Claire McCaskill did best among those who said that economy/jobs, education and health care were the top issues. Republican Matt Blunt was favored by those who said the top issues were abortion, gun control and same-sex marriages.

McCaskill excelled in the state's big cities. Blunt was strongest in rural areas and small towns. The suburban vote was evenly split.

In Missouri's U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Kit Bond won a fourth term by receiving nearly three-fifths of the male vote, and he even did slightly better than Democratic challenger Nancy Farmer among women.

Many political experts believe Missouri is growing more conservative, but that was not reflected in the exit poll. Just under half of voters called themselves moderates, while about one-third said they were conservative and one in five said they were liberal. Those numbers were nearly identical to four years ago.

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