Voters made up minds before Clark's last-minute push, survey shows

Wednesday, February 4th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Retired Gen. Wesley Clark already had significant support in Oklahoma even before he made a last-minute push to narrowly claim the Democratic nomination, an Associated Press survey shows.

Half of Clark's support came from the 40 percent of Democrats who made up their minds before last week.

He also picked up a quarter of the vote among the majority of those who decided in the last week, according to the survey of 1,501 voters conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Clark, who lives in neighboring Arkansas, had campaigned for seven straight days in Oklahoma and was in the state Tuesday night to claim his slim victory over North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Edwards had a slight lead over Clark among the last-minute decision makers, and they accounted for about 60 percent of his support.

Women made up more than half of the electorate, and one in three voters was age 65 and older.

About half of Democrats described their family's financial situation as being worse than it was four years ago, and they favored Clark slightly over Edwards.

That's despite the fact that Edwards' economic message resonated among the 40 percent of voters who cited the economy and jobs as their top concern. About four out of 10 of them gave him their vote.

Martha Embry, a 57-year-old high school history teacher, said she voted for Edwards because of concerns about education and prescription drugs.

``My parents were some of the few that could afford to buy the drugs. Most can't,'' she said. ``It's a choice of living or not living.''

Voters were divided when it came to what single quality they valued most in a candidate. They gave equal weight to a candidate's concern for people like them, standing up for what he believes and his ability to defeat President Bush.

Clark won among those who valued a strong-willed candidate, and Edwards had convinced those who want a candidate who cares.

More than half of those looking for a candidate able to beat Bush chose Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. And seven in 10 voters said they would be satisfied with Kerry as the nominee, no matter how they voted Tuesday.

``He has the government smarts to go up against the Bush machine,'' said Dona Leecraft, a 53-year-old registered nurse in Tulsa and Kerry supporter.

Kerry also led slightly among the one-third of voters who said they are angry with the Bush administration. Another 40 percent of voters said they are dissatisfied with Bush but not angry.

More than half of voters in Oklahoma disapproved of Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, and Kerry and Clark had a slight lead over Edwards among that group.

Edwards, in turn, finished slightly ahead of Clark among the roughly 40 percent of voters who approved of the Iraq war.

Clark and Kerry led among the one in three self-described liberals, and Clark and Edwards finished close among those who are moderates.