Washington experience helps Dole, survey shows Buchanan gets boost from religious conservatives; CAMPAIGN 1996

A sample of 2,053 voters as they headed into Iowa's GOP precinct caucuses last night found:

Top finishers' top strengths: Sen. Bob Dole ran strongest among the elderly and those who said his Washington experience was the top factor for them. Patrick J. Buchanan outdistanced his rivals among religious conservatives. Lamar Alexander scored by asserting that he's the candidate best able to beat President Clinton.


Conservative caucus-goers: Three-quarters of the caucus-goers were self-described conservatives. One in three called themselves very conservative; Mr. Buchanan got four in 10 of their votes. Mr. Dole got less than one-quarter.

Religious right: A third of caucus-goers identified themselves as part of the conservative Christian political movement.


What mattered most: More than a third said the factor that mattered most in deciding whom to support was that their candidate "best represents conservative values."

When they decided: A quarter of caucus-goers said they settled on a candidate in the last three days, and they flowed mainly to Mr. Alexander and Mr. Buchanan, with Mr. Dole not far behind.

Dole defectors: Half the caucus-goers said they planned to support Mr. Dole at some point this year, and half of that group defected to other candidates. Mr. Alexander and Mr. Buchanan each picked up 15 percent of former Dole backers.

Flat tax: Caucus-goers were split on whether they support a flat tax, Steve Forbes' pet issue.

Abortion plank: Voters split evenly on whether the GOP platform should support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

Dole's age: Six in 10 voters said Mr. Dole's age would make no difference in his serving as president. Among the one-third who said it would hurt him, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Alexander were slightly ahead of Mr. Dole.

Demographics: Mr. Dole captured 42 percent of the nearly three in 10 voters age 60 and over. Mr. Buchanan found strength among the caucus-goers with the lowest income. Mr. Alexander's support was fairly even among all income levels.

Gender: About 56 percent of voters were men, but there were no significant differences between the votes of men and women.


Poll conducted by Voter News Service, a consortium of the Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. Margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.