Dems Souring on Rival Candidates

Ad Feedback - Democratic Party members increasingly dislike the contender they are not supporting in the nomination fight, an Associated Press-Yahoo News survey and exit polls of voters show.

That is raising questions about how faithful some will be by the November general election.

How Faithful Will Dems Be in November?

In the AP-Yahoo poll - which has tracked the same 2,000 people since November - Barack Obama supporters with negative views of Hillary Rodham Clinton have grown from 35 percent in November to 44 percent this month, including one-quarter with very unfavorable feelings.

Obama backers who don't like Clinton say they would vote for GOP candidate John McCain over her by a two-to-one margin, with many undecided.

And Clinton supporters with negative views of Obama have grown from 26 percent to 42 percent during this same period - including a doubling to 20 percent of those with very negative opinions.

The Clinton backers with unfavorable views of Obama say they would vote for McCain over him by nearly three-to-one, though many haven't made up their minds.

Undecided Voters

Clinton backers who don't like Obama have a lower regard for his honesty and ethics than they did last fall, the poll shows.

Obama supporters whose view of Clinton has dimmed see her as much less compassionate and refreshing than they did then.

There is a huge disparity in feelings among the candidates' strongest supporters.

-Roughly half of Obama's white backers with college degrees have negative views of Clinton. Fewer black Obama supporters dislike Clinton but their numbers have grown faster, more than doubling during the period to 33 percent.

-Among Clinton's supporters, Obama is disliked by nearly half the whites who have not gone beyond high school, a near doubling since November. Four in 10 white women backing her have unfavorable views of Obama.

Intensified Passions Nothing New

Intensified passions during contentious intraparty battles are nothing new, and voters often return to the fold once the general election arrives and people concentrate on partisan and issue differences.

"These are snapshots of today," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., a member of his party's congressional leadership who has not committed to Clinton or Obama. By autumn, he said, "the party will come together."

But with the fight between Clinton and Obama possibly stretching into June or beyond, some Democrats wonder if the party will have enough time to recapture the loyalties of those whose candidate lost the party's nomination.

"If we can bring this to a conclusion by mid-June or something, I think that healing can take place," Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has been leaning on party leaders to choose a nominee quickly, said in an interview. "If it goes till late August, then it's a real problem."

Will History Repeat Itself?

Others are concerned but argue that the divisions are nothing compared to 1968 whenDemocratic convention in Chicago was split over the Vietnam War; when Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully fought President Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976; or when Sen. Edward Kennedy lost a bitter duel with President Carter to be the 1980 Democratic nominee. In each case, those parties' nominees lost the general election.

Exit Polls Tell it All

Exit polls of voters in this year's Democratic primaries tell a similar tale of hard feelings.

-In Pennsylvania's primary last week, which Clinton won, 68 percent of Obama voters said they would back Clinton against McCain. Just 54 percent of her supporters would vote for Obama against the Republican - including less than half of her white voters who have not finished college.

-In the 16 states that held primaries on Super Tuesday Feb. 5, a combined 47 percent of Clinton voters said they would be satisfied only if she won the nomination. That figure has grown to 53 percent in the nine states with primaries since then - including 58 percent who said so in Pennsylvania.

-In Pennsylvania, while Clinton voters overall would vote heavily for Obama over McCain, her supporters who expressed displeasure should Obama win the nomination were evenly split in a contest between Obama and the Arizona Republican senator.

-On Super Tuesday, 44 percent of Obama's supporters said they would only settle for him as nominee - a number that has risen to 49 percent in states voting since that day.

Negative Feelings Growing

Exit polls also show key voting blocs' negative feelings about their candidate's rival have grown, though it is less intense on Obama's side.

On Super Tuesday, about half of Clinton's white supporters with less than college degrees said they would be satisfied only if she won the nomination. In voting since then, six in 10 have said so - including 68 percent in Pennsylvania last week.

On the other hand, 46 percent of Obama's black supporters on Super Tuesday said he was the only candidate they wanted to win. That number has edged up to 49 percent since that Feb. 5 voting - including 55 percent in Pennsylvania.

The exit poll is based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 voters in 28 states that have held primaries this year in which both candidates actively competed.

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 percentage point, larger for some subgroups.

Source: The Associated Press

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