Independents found New Hampshire's Democratic primary the most attractive place to vote on Tuesday and gave Barack Obama a boost.
Women, lower-income voters and senior citizens favored Hillary Rodham Clinton, exit polls showed. Immigration was a defining issue in the Republican contest, as John McCain far outdistanced the field among voters friendlier to illegal immigrants while Mitt Romney scored among voters who want them deported.
Registered independents could choose between the two parties' primaries, and early exit poll data indicated six in 10 opted for the Democratic contest. As in the Iowa caucuses five nights earlier, more than four in 10 independents supported Obama, far more than voted for any of the other Democrats, according to preliminary results of surveys conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.
Obama was even stronger in New Hampshire than in Iowa among the youngest voters, winning two-thirds of those age 18-24. But Clinton and John Edwards fared much better among 25- to 29-year-olds in New Hampshire than in Iowa, where more than half of them backed Obama.
In the Republican race, three in 10 GOP primary voters would offer illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship and half of them supported McCain, who had plummeted in preprimary polls last summer for supporting that idea.
Two in 10 Republican primary voters Tuesday favored allowing illegal immigrants to stay as temporary workers and they split evenly between McCain and Romney, who has taken a tougher line and attacked McCain on the issue. But McCain lagged well behind Romney among the half of Republican voters who said illegal immigrants should be deported.
McCain also found greater support among GOP voters who disapprove of the war in Iraq. Romney narrowly led among those who approve the war.
The results are from partial samples in exit polls Tuesday in 50 precincts around New Hampshire for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The surveys included 1,296 Democratic primary voters and 905 Republican primary voters. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 4 percentage points for the Democratic primary survey, 5 points for the Republican.