Primary Preview: Dynamics Differ for the Two Parties in Early Races

  • December 19, 2007
  • By Andrew Kohut

With the first votes of the 2008 presidential election soon to be cast in the early-decision states, the likely outcome of these contests is more in doubt than in any election cycle in recent history. For the Democratic candidates, the decisive factors are personal and tactical. For Republican contestants, however, the ultimate outcome may be decided more by the relative strength of long quiescent but newly combative ideological elements within the GOP, a struggle that is likely to take longer to play out.

In Iowa, the Democratic race may well hinge on a generation gap that has gotten much less attention thus far than has the gender gap. December polls by ABC/ Washington Post and Newsweek showed Barack Obama not only catching up with Hillary Clinton, but pulling slightly ahead among likely caucus goers. But the internals of the polls suggest that Obama's lead is indeed a fragile one. In the Newsweek poll, the Illinois senator tops his New York rival by a wide margin among voters who will "probably" vote (40% to 27%), but among those who say that they will "definitely vote" the race is even (31% vs. 32%).

This gap reflects a pattern apparent in both December polls. Obama runs far better among younger voters, who turn out less reliably than older voters. In the Newsweek poll Obama has a 25-percentage point lead among those less than 50 years of age, while Hillary leads by 15 points among those ages 50 and older -- a spread wider than the gender gap recorded in Iowa.

Read the full report Primary Preview: Dynamics Differ for the Two Parties in Early Races on the Pew Research Center Web site.