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Inside Politics

Health care, economy seen as Kerry's winning issues

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On the campaign trail: The latest Express Line dispatch 
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
New Hampshire
Democratic candidates
America Votes 2004
Presidential primaries

(CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry attracted New Hampshire primary voters on the key issues of health care and the economy, according to exit polls.

Respondents to the polls said they believed that he had the experience and ability to beat the Republican incumbent. Kerry also had the edge among those who said they were concerned about Dean's temperament, and among the respondents who described themselves as dissatisfied but not angry with the Bush administration.

Nearly half of those polled after voting in the Democratic primary -- a little less than half -- described themselves as angry, and Dean and Kerry each got about a third of their support. But among the more than one-third who described themselves as merely dissatisfied, Kerry beat Dean by a 2-1 margin.

The exit poll respondents said health care and the war in Iraq were their top issues in the 2004 race.

Although Dean narrowly led among those who said Iraq was their top issue, Kerry beat Dean -- who is also a medical doctor -- almost 2-1 among those polled who said health care was most important.

The exit polls also showed that Kerry and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina profited from the bounce out of their strong performances last week in the Iowa caucuses, polling stronger among people who said they made up their minds after Iowa than they did among those who made up their minds before.

Dean went into the nation's first binding primary haunted by his howling speech to supporters after the Iowa caucuses.

When asked if Dean had the right temperament to be president, most of those polled said yes. But among the more than one-third who said they didn't believe the former Vermont governor had the requisite temperament, about half said they voted for Kerry.

When asked whether being able to beat President Bush was more important than the issues in the campaign, more than half said issues were more important, while only about one-third put beating Bush at the top of their agenda.

But among those exit poll respondents motivated by electability, more than half said they supported Kerry, and less than 20 percent each said they pulled the lever for Dean, retired Gen. Wesley Clark or Edwards.

About a third of respondents who lived in a house with a military veteran said they went for Kerry, and a quarter went for Dean. Gun owners followed that pattern.

About two-thirds said they approved of civil unions for gays and lesbians, and those were evenly divided among Dean and Kerry, with each getting about one-third.

Among respondents who made up their minds in the last week, Kerry took more than one-third, compared with less than one-quarter for Dean and less for Edwards. Among respondents who made up their minds before Iowa, Dean carried more than one-third, compared with about one-third for Kerry and less than 1 in 10 for Edwards.

As he did in Iowa, Kerry beat Dean among the two-thirds of respondents who disapproved of the war in Iraq -- Dean's signature issue. However, the margin was smaller in the New Hampshire exit poll than it was in the Iowa caucuses, where Kerry beat Dean by 10 points among war opponents.

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