DENVER — George W. Bush swept nearly every voter group in an overwhelmingly conservative Colorado Republican electorate on Friday, although half of self-described independents preferred John McCain, who's no longer running, or Alan Keyes, an exit poll found.
Two-thirds of voters in Colorado's GOP presidential primary called themselves conservative, a bigger share than in any other GOP contest with exit polls this year except the Iowa caucuses. Strong conservatives typically are reliable voters even in largely uncontested elections like the Colorado and Utah primaries Friday.
A third of Colorado GOP voters said they were part of the religious right, a movement with a stronghold in Colorado Springs, and six in 10 opposed abortion.
Bush won voters across age, income and philosophical brackets in Colorado, according to preliminary results of an exit poll by Voter News Service for the AP and television networks.
"Bush seems pretty sure of himself and what he wants to accomplish," said Nancy Wright, 39, an office manager from Englewood, Colo., and a Republican who voted for Bush.
Four in five primary voters in the exit poll called themselves Republican. The GOP primary was open to registered Republicans and those unaffiliated with a party.
Bush won half of self-described independents, a larger proportion than in earlier primaries when majorities of independents favored McCain, who ended his campaign on Thursday, essentially conceding the nomination to Bush. In Colorado, a third of independents backed McCain.
Two-thirds of McCain voters said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate in November rather than Bush or certain Democratic nominee Al Gore.
A third of Colorado voters called moral values the most important issue. In Utah, where nearly all GOP voters were Mormon, half cited moral values as the top issue.
Slightly more than half of Colorado GOP primary voters said gun rights were more important than reducing gun violence--a polarizing issue in the state after last year's Columbine High School massacre.
The findings were from Voter News Service interviews with 461 Republican presidential primary voters in Colorado and 437 in Utah. Results were subject to a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points, larger for subgroups. Because of low turnout, exit poll samples in Democratic primaries in both states were too small to be statistically reliable.