On Super Tuesday “Gaps”

By Sarah Dutton 

The New Generation Gap 

Those who lived through the 1960s remember well the “Generation Gap” of that era, and for those too young to remember, they have likely read about it in history books. History is repeating itself – at least on this year’s Super Tuesday, as a new political generation gap has emerged. 

While it isn’t news that Bernie Sanders supporters include a sizable number of young people, a deeper look at the Edison exit poll data from Super Tuesday shows just how pervasive this new Generation Gap is within the Democratic primary electorate. It exists in many demographic groups, and across many issues. 

First, an overall picture. Looking at all twelve of the Super Tuesday states for which there was an Edison exit poll, half of voters under age 45 voted for Sanders, while Joe Biden was the winner among voters 45 and older. 

These age differences persist regardless of other demographic variables. Whether one looks at white voters, college graduates or those without a degree, men or women, voters under age 45 supported Sanders and those 45 and older chose Biden. Only among black voters do both age groups support Biden and even there his support is much higher among older voters. 

Not surprisingly, Sanders’ support is highest among voters under 30 (58%).  Sanders’ support drops sharply among those 65 and older (15%).   

There is a generation gap on issues as well. Voters over age 45 are more moderate, and more apt to prefer a return to the policies of Barack Obama.  And while both age groups chose health care as the most important issue in their vote choice, older voters are far less supportive of replacing private insurance with a single government plan for everyone. Younger voters also hold a more favorable view of socialism, while older voters are more divided. 

And each age group was looking for different qualities in a candidate. Among those under age 45, 48% were looking for a candidate who can bring needed change. Voters 45 and over were looking for someone who can unite the country (39%). 

Despite these differences, Democratic voters of all ages will need to unite behind a candidate in order to win in November. The exit polls show signs of unity; 80% of those under age 45, and 85% of those 45 and older, say they will vote for the Democratic nominee, regardless of who it is. One caveat – 19% of voters under 45 (and 22% of those under 30) say they will not do so, presumably if their chosen candidate is not the nominee. 

The Gender Gap 

In addition to the generation gap, there is a gender gap too. Sanders won among men, while Biden took the lead among women. Traditionally, the gender “gap” is measured by the difference in the vote between men and women for the night’s winner. Since Biden won the most votes across all twelve states, the “gap” is 5 points (30% – 35%). 

Since 1980, there has also been a gender gap in the November vote for president, as evidenced by the Edison Research national exit poll. The gap rose to double digits in 1996 and 2000, and again in 2012 and 2016. 

What’s behind the Super Tuesday gender gap? Once again, age is a factor. Men who voted were a bit younger than women voters; 38% of men were under age 45, versus 34% of women. And Sanders had greater support among those men under 45 (55%) than among women in that same age group (45%). 

Both men and women say they will unite behind the Democratic nominee in November, although women (87%) are more likely to say so than men (79%).  

Next up, Michigan (among other states), an all-important general election Rust Belt state that Sanders won in 2016. Will he do it again?

Edison Research Conducts Exit Polls on Super Tuesday 2020

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, Edison Research successfully conducted exit polling on behalf of the National Election Pool (NEP). Edison Research interviewed over 25,000 voters at randomly-selected voting sites.

Edison Research’s exit polls are used to determine key information from voters, including demographic data, important issues and the “electability” of the various candidates. Edison’s election team captured, processed and analyzed thousands of data points and enabled our member clients and subscribers real-time access to in-depth analysis of the results.

Coverage of  Super Tuesday voter polls can be found here:

ABC News: Takeaways from Super Tuesday Exit Polls

CBS News: Super Tuesday 2020 Updates

CNN: Live Updates Super Tuesday 2020

NBC News: 2020 Super Tuesday Live Updates

Reuters: Super Tuesday Voters Largely Split Into Two Camps

The New York Times: How Super Tuesday Unfolded

The Washington Post: Exit Polls from the 2020 Democratic Super Tuesday Contests

About the NEP-Edison Research Entrance Polls: Edison Research conducted exit polls for the National Election Pool (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC) during the 2020 Super Tuesday nominating contests. Over 25,000 voters were polled.

Click here for more about Edison Research and election polling.

About Edison Research
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of clients, including Activision, AMC Theatres, Disney, Dolby Laboratories, Google, Oracle, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Pandora, Samsung, Siemens, Sony, The Gates Foundation, and Univision. Edison is the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research on the medium for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the space. Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Edison is also the leading provider of consumer exit polling and has conducted face-to-face research in almost every imaginable venue. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election.

The South Carolina Primary: A Quick Look at Black Voters

By Sarah Dutton 

The South Carolina Democratic primary not only represented a must-win state for Joe Biden if he wanted to keep his candidacy viable, but it was also the first contest with a sizable African American voting population.  And with help from that voting bloc, Biden won the primary there. 

According to the Edison exit poll data there, 56% of voters in South Carolina were African American – down from 61% in 2016 – and they overwhelmingly supported Biden; he won 61% of their vote. Bernie Sanders came in second, far behind at 17%.  (Biden won among white voters as well, but by a far smaller margin.)  

Older black voters were especially strong Biden supporters; 69% of those over age 45 voted for Biden.

There were clear signs of how strongly black voters in South Carolina relate to Biden. Fully 84% of black voters hold a favorable view of Biden, higher than for any other candidate. He was the overwhelming choice for which candidate best understands the concerns of racial and ethnic minorities; 55% of black voters chose him.  And 60% of black voters said the endorsement of Biden by Representative Jim Clyburn – a senior black member of Congress from this state – was an important factor in their vote; 64% of them voted for Biden. 

And in what could only help Biden, 66% of black voters said they want a return to the policies of Barack Obama. 

As the Democratic nominating race moves into the Super Tuesday states, exit poll data will show whether Biden’s strong showing among black voters continues, and how much it contributes to his delegate count.

In the states voting on Super Tuesday, if historical trends hold black voters may not be as large a force as they were in South Carolina. Looking back at Edison exit poll data from the Democratic primaries in 2016, in only one of the states holding races this Tuesday did the black share of the vote reach as high as it was in South Carolina this year – in Alabama, 54% of 2016 Democratic primary voters were black.  Black voters were a smaller but still substantial percentage of the electorate in Tennessee (32%), North Carolina (32%), Arkansas (27%) and Virginia (26%). But in states like Oklahoma (14%), Massachusetts (4%) and Vermont (1%), they were a small sliver of voters. In states with low percentages of black voters, Biden will have to draw support from other groups of voters as well to prevail. 

In Texas, the voter group to watch are Latinos. While 19% of 2016 primary voters in Texas were black, they were outnumbered by Latinos, who comprised 32% of the electorate there.      

Edison Research will have its exit polling team spread out across the Super Tuesday states tomorrow. We’ll let you know how it all plays out. 

Edison Research Conducts Exit Polls for South Carolina Primaries

On Saturday, February 29, Edison Research successfully conducted exit polling for the South Carolina Primaries on behalf of the National Election Pool (NEP). Edison Research interviewed 2,178 voters at randomly-selected voting sites.

Edison Research’s exit polls are used to determine key information from voters, including demographic data, important issues and the “electability” of the various candidates. Edison’s election team captured, processed and analyzed thousands of data points and enabled our member clients and subscribers real-time access to in-depth analysis of the results.

Coverage of our South Carolina voter polls can be found here:

ABC News: Commanding Biden Win in South Carolina Resets and Recasts Primary Race

CBS News: Biden Wins South Carolina Primary, Giving Much-Needed Boost to Campaign

CNN: Joe Biden Revitalizes his Campaign with Win in South Carolina

NBC News: 2020 Primary Elections South Carolina Results

Reuters: Key Black Lawmaker’s Backing Factors Big in Biden’s South Carolina Win

The New York Times:  Winning South Carolina, Biden Makes a Case Against Sanders

The Washington Post: Exit Polls from the 2020 South Carolina Democratic Primary

About the NEP-Edison Research Entrance Polls: Edison Research conducted entrance polls and early voter exit polls for the National Election Pool (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC) during the Nevada Democratic Presidential Caucus.   The total number of respondents for both the election day entrance poll and the early exit poll is 2784.  The entrance poll was conducted at 30 caucus locations among 1004 Democratic caucus participants on February 22, 2020.  The early exit poll interviews were conducted in-person between February 15 and February 18, 2020.   Approximately 50 participants complete a questionnaire at each caucus location.

Click here for more about Edison Research and election polling.

About Edison Research
Edison Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to a broad array of clients, including Activision, AMC Theatres, Disney, Dolby Laboratories, Google, Oracle, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Pandora, Samsung, Siemens, Sony, The Gates Foundation, and Univision. Edison is the leading podcast research company in the world and has conducted research on the medium for NPR, Slate, ESPN, PodcastOne, WNYC Studios, and many more companies in the space. Another specialty for Edison is its work for media companies throughout the world, conducting research in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Edison is also the leading provider of consumer exit polling and has conducted face-to-face research in almost every imaginable venue. Since 2004, Edison Research has been the sole provider of Election Day data to the National Election Pool, conducting exit polls and collecting precinct vote returns to project and analyze results for every major presidential primary and general election.

Super Tuesday: What Is It, and What Can We Expect?

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are designated by party rules to hold their nominating contests before any other states — but plenty of other states want their voters to have a say in who is chosen as the nominee, and therefore hold their contests as soon after those first four as possible. Hence, Super Tuesday – the date on which the largest number of states hold their nominating primary and caucus contests, and a large number of delegates are awarded.

Super Tuesday receives a lot of attention, and because states from all over the country vote on that day, it can provide some insight into how a candidate will fare nationally. It generally falls fairly early in the nominating calendar, often in March. This year, Super Tuesday falls on March 3, when fourteen states and two other groups will hold contests: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Democrats living abroad and the territory of American Samoa.

It’s the all-important delegate count that will determine the eventual nominee. Delegates on the Democratic side are awarded proportionally, which means that candidates who receive more than 15% of the vote in each state will receive some number of delegates that reflects their vote share in the race.

1,357 delegates will be at stake on March 3, a large share of the 1,991 unpledged delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. California, which moved up its primary this year, is the biggest prize with 415 delegates, followed by Texas with 228 delegates and North Carolina with 110.


Delegates at Stake

Alabama – 52

Arkansas – 31

California – 415

Colorado – 67

Maine – 24

Massachusetts – 91

Minnesota – 75

North Carolina – 110

Oklahoma – 37

Tennessee – 64

Texas – 228

Utah – 29

Vermont – 16

Virginia – 99

Territory of American Samoa – 6

Democrats Abroad – 13


We won’t know the outcome of the biggest delegate prize until 11 p.m. EST at the earliest, when the polls close in California. Bear in mind that sometimes races are just too close to project a winner when the polls close, and we may have to wait until more of the vote is reported to know who the victor is. Polls begin closing at 7:00 p.m. EST; Virginia and Vermont close at 7:00, followed by North Carolina 7:30. Then at 8:00 we will see poll closings in Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, OklahomaTennessee, and Utah. Arkansas closes at 8:30 p.m., followed by Colorado, Minnesota and Texas at 9:00 and California at 11, as mentioned. 

What Could Happen?

It shouldn’t surprise election watchers if Bernie Sanders wins his home state of Vermont, as he did four years ago. In 2016, Sanders won Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah as well as Democrats Abroad – we will watch to see if he wins those this year as well. In 2016 Hillary Clinton won the three delegate-rich states voting on Super Tuesday this year – California, Texas and North Carolina. At the time of this writing, polls show Sanders with a lead in California, but the race is closer in Texas and North Carolina.

As we all know, these races can change course in the last few days before election day, depending on news events, debate performances and voters who decide or change their minds late in the runup to the election. And South Carolina will hold its primary just days before Super Tuesday – a race in which polls show Joe Biden with a lead and where he is expected to perform well among the state’s large African American voting population. That may provide him with some momentum heading into the March 3 elections.

What impact could Super Tuesday have this year? If a candidate wins a number of states by a large margin or wins one or more of the big delegate-rich states, it could propel him or her into the lead for the nomination. It’s also possible that one or more Democratic candidates will not receive enough delegates to be able to continue; with a relatively large field still in the race, some candidates may find themselves so behind in delegates that their candidacy is no longer viable. Super Tuesday may mark a turning point in the race for the Democratic nomination, we shall see.

Some Super Tuesday Factoids

The first “Super Tuesday” was designated as such in 1988, when a number of Southern states joined forces to hold their primaries on the same day to increase their influence in the nominating process.

Twenty years later, in 2008, so many states voted on one day that it was referred to by pundits as “Titanic Tuesday”. That year, 24 states held Democratic primaries and caucuses and 21 held Republican primaries and caucuses; many states moved up the date of their primary or caucus, and Super Tuesday occurred in early February. More than 1,000 delegates were awarded that day in each party.

And sometimes Super Tuesday results can winnow the field. In 2016, Republicans Marco Rubio and Ben Carson dropped out shortly after the March 1 Super Tuesday voting.

Will Super Tuesday make history this year? By next week, we will know the answer.

Click here for more on election polling.