The New Hampshire Democratic Primaries – How They Won and Lost

By Sarah Dutton

The New Hampshire Democratic Primary electorate is overwhelmingly angry with the Trump administration (79%) and a majority is focused on candidates’ electability (63%) over issue positions (33%), according to Edison Research exit polls. 

The final vote tallies for the top three candidates – Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar – showed a close race, and in the final days, a fluid one. There were twice as many “late deciders” – voters who made up their minds which candidate to support in the days leading up to Election Day – this year as in 2016; 51% of the electorate said they decided who to vote for on election day or in the last few days leading up to it, compared to 25% in 2016.  

Among those who decided on election day or in the last few days before election day, 28% supported Pete Buttigieg, and nearly as many – 26% – voted for Amy Klobuchar. Voters who made their minds up earlier in the race supported Sanders.

Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar had good news heading into the New Hampshire Democratic Primary: Buttigieg won the most state delegates in the Iowa caucuses, and Klobuchar was widely considered to have done well in the most recent Democratic debate.  The New Hampshire exit poll provides more evidence of the boost Klobuchar may have gotten from last Friday’s debate; 49% of voters said the recent debate was an important factor in their vote choice, and she won this group with 29%.

Perceptions of the candidates’ qualities also contributed to the strong showings by Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Among the 36% of voters who said they want a candidate who can bring needed change, Sanders was their choice, with 37%.  A third said that a candidate that can unite the country was most important to them, and Klobuchar won them with 33%, followed by Buttigieg with 29%.   

Sanders won with strong support from voters under 30 (47%), the most liberal wing of the party (46%) and new voters (29%). 

Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar took the top three spots in the final vote tally. What happened to two of the other frontrunning candidates, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren?  

Biden’s arguments about why he should be the nominee just didn’t connect with these voters. He has emphasized his foreign policy experience but came in third (20%) to Buttigieg (27%) and Klobuchar (23%) among voters who chose it as the most important issue in their vote (just 11% did so).  

Among the four in ten voters who want to see a return to the policies of his former boss President Barack Obama, 28% voted for Buttigieg and 26% for Klobuchar, with Biden in third place at 15%.  

And finally, Biden did poorly on one of his strongest arguments to voters, electability; among the 63% of voters focused on beating Trump in November, just 10% chose him as their candidate, after Buttigieg (28%), Sanders (21%), Klobuchar (21%) and Warren (11%). 

Warren did poorly with most demographic groups, coming in near the bottom of the field among both women and men, young voters under 30 and voters 65 or older, and Independents.  Thirty percent of white college-educated women voted for Klobuchar, twice the percentage that voted for Warren (15%). As a progressive candidate, she did better among very liberal voters (19%) but came in a distant second to Sanders (46%). 

There is plenty of additional data to mine from the New Hampshire exit poll – more noteworthy data nuggets to come! 

By Cindy Axne -, Public Domain,

Edison Research Conducts Entrance Polls on Iowa Caucus Night

On Monday, February 3, Edison Research successfully conducted entrance polling for the Iowa Caucuses on behalf of the National Election Pool (NEP). Edison interviewed over 1600 voters at randomly-selected caucus sites.

The Edison Research entrance polls provided valuable context to the nation’s first political contest of the 2020 election cycle. Our network clients relied upon the information obtained from these entrance polls to provide valuable content and insight throughout the entire evening of the Iowa Caucuses.

Edison’s entrance polls were 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 within the short duration of the caucuses and enabled our member clients and subscribers real-time access to in-depth analysis of the Iowa results.

Full coverage of our entrance polls can be found here:






The Washington Post

Which Generation will show up at the Caucuses?

By Sarah Dutton

With the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses just days away, anticipation is mounting about which candidate will emerge as the victor. And as with any election contest, turnout will be a critical factor in the outcome – a reflection of which candidate was able to motivate their supporters to come out and caucus.

It’s always a challenge for pollsters to estimate turnout when they create their polling models of likely voters, and those turnout estimates may affect which candidate the polls show in the lead.  Just days before the caucuses, some polls show Joe Biden leading, while others show Bernie Sanders ahead. And the margin by which these candidates lead the field varies as well.  There is a history of surprises in Iowa as well, so no one should be counted out entirely. How many people turn out to vote, and who they are, will determine the winner.

As of this writing, many of those involved in the Democratic campaigns and Iowa election officials expect sizable turnout this year.  In 2016, participation in the Iowa caucuses was around 170,000 voters. But in 2008, turnout for the Democratic caucuses in Iowa reached record levels; 239,000 voters came out to participate in the caucuses that year. Some political observers expect even higher turnout this year than in 2008.

But which types of voters attend the caucuses – young or old; Democrats, independents or even Republicans (Iowa’s Democratic caucuses are open, meaning anyone can participate);  moderate or liberal; urban, rural – will also influence how well the candidates fare and who prevails.Past Iowa entrance polls conducted by Edison Research provide some helpful data – but keep in mind that past results aren’t necessarily predictors of future results, and turnout could differ this year.  In 2008, Barack Obama was the winner of the Democratic caucuses. That year, Obama won among liberals, but he also won moderates, who were 40% of the electorate. Young voters – nearly a quarter of the electorate – also helped propel Obama to his victory. And first-time caucusgoers made up more than half the electorate in 2008; Obama won a 41% plurality of them.

Overall turnout for the Iowa Democratic caucuses was lower in 2016, and Bernie Sanders ran a very close second to Hillary Clinton, the winner that year. Clinton won among women in 2016, and she also won among voters age 65 and over, who made up a greater share of the electorate in 2016 than in 2008.  Sanders’ strong showing can be attributed to the younger, more liberal faction of the electorate. Although there were fewer younger voters than in 2008, Sanders won them by a very lopsided 84% to 14% for Clinton. (By comparison, in 2008 57% of voters under 30 supported Obama.)  The 2016 electorate was also more left-leaning than in 2008; two in three were liberal, including 28% who described themselves as very liberal, up from 18% in 2008.  Sanders won the very liberal voters by nearly twenty points.

Turning Out New Voters

By Sarah Dutton 

Each election season there is speculation about whether new voters will turn out and which candidate will motivate them to do so.  New voters can contribute to a candidate’s bloc of voter support, and turning out first-time voters is often a sign that a candidate is generating enthusiasm. And while it may not guarantee becoming the party’s nominee, energizing first-time voters can provide a compelling campaign narrative for a candidate heading into and during the caucuses and primaries. 

During past Democratic caucuses and primaries, entrance and exit polls conducted by Edison Research showed both Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008 were able to energize and motivate voters who were attending a caucus or voting in a primary for the first time.   

In 2016, Sanders was best able to mobilize the support of newer voters. First-time caucus attendees accounted for 44% of Iowa Democrats in their caucuses, and Sanders won those voters handily (although Hillary Clinton won the caucuses overall). 

In 2008, Obama was especially able to energize and turn out this group; a 57% majority of Iowa Democratic caucus goers said they were attending their first caucus, and Obama won the caucuses that year. It is worth noting that Obama’s Iowa win in 2008 may have contributed to a shift in the Democratic race. In the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Clinton was ahead in just about every national poll that asked about the Democratic nominating contest. Later in January, after Iowa and New Hampshire held their contests, Obama began to lead Clinton in some national polls, perhaps because Democratic primary voters perceived him as more electable after his Iowa win. 

Turning to New Hampshire, in the past two Democratic primaries the Edison Research exit polls show fewer new voters compared to Iowa – less than one in five voters there were voting in a primary for the first time. But Sanders won them by a large margin in 2016, and Obama won a 47% plurality of them in 2008.  

Why were these new voters energized to turn out? The 2016 Iowa caucus entrance poll provides evidence of new voters’ connection with Sanders. They were twice as likely as more seasoned attendees to say that only Bernie Sanders represented their values, and less likely to identify with the values of Hillary Clinton. 

In the 2016 New Hampshire exit polls, Sanders’ support from new voters shows more clearly that many of these voters were motivated by support for him specifically. New Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire were more likely than those who had voted previously to say they were in tune only with Sanders’ values – 51% did so. 


While nearly nine in ten new Democratic voters in New Hampshire said they would be satisfied if Sanders won the nomination, a majority also said they would not be satisfied if Clinton won. By comparison, majorities of those who had voted before said they would be happy with each candidate as the nominee. (Overall, 62% of New Hampshire voters said they would be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee, and 79% said the same for Sanders.) 

Demographically, first time voters in Iowa and New Hampshire were significantly younger than voters who had caucused or voted before.  

In 2016, Bernie Sanders went on to win first-time caucus/primary voters in the next set of nominating contests after Iowa and New Hampshire as well – a clear demonstration that he had energized a newer, younger bloc of voters to come out and participate in the nominating process. In the Nevada Democratic caucuses, entrance polls show that fully 62% of caucus-goers were attending for the first time, and Sanders won them 53% to 44%. And while a much smaller 13% of South Carolina Democratic primary voters were new voters, Sanders won them as well, 63% to 37%, according to the exit poll. Of course, despite this support Sanders did not become the Democratic nominee that year. 

So, which candidate will generate enthusiasm among these newer attendees and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire this year? Will Sanders replicate his 2016 success?  Will first-timers be a determining factor in which candidate becomes the eventual nominee? These are among the key stories to watch for next month as the 2020 Democratic nominating contests get under way.

The Youth Vote

By Sarah Dutton 

Young people under age 30 seem highly politically engaged in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. It is impossible to predict how they will vote or why, but a look at their voting behavior, political leanings and priorities in the 2016 Edison Research exit polls suggest some trends to consider for the 2020 Democratic primaries.  

Throughout the primaries and caucuses in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders received strong support from voters under 30, according to the exit polls conducted by Edison Research.  In the 2016 Iowa caucuses, the first of the Democratic nominating contests, caucus-goers under 30 supported Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a very lop-sided margin – 84% to just 14% for Clinton.  Sanders won voters under 30 by similarly large margins in New Hampshire (83% to 16%) and Nevada (82% to 14%).  

In fact, Sanders bested Clinton among voters under 30 in all the 2016 primary contests covered by the exit poll except Alabama and Mississippi. Looking at exit polls from all the Democratic nominating contests in 2016 combined, Sanders won 71% of the vote from those under 30, while Clinton won 28%; a landslide for Sanders and the inverse of the vote among those age 65 and older. 


In addition to their vote choice, younger voters also differentiated themselves attitudinally from voters who were older. The 2016 exit polls reveal an under-30 electorate that identified as more liberal (and preferred more liberal policies), more concerned about income inequality and less interested in a candidate’s experience than older voters. 

Importantly, voters under 30 were more liberal than older voters. Combining all the exit polls from the 2016 Democratic nominating races finds that 35% of younger voters described themselves as very liberal – far higher than the 28% of voters age 30 to 44, 21% of those age 45 to 64 and 22% of 65+ voters who did so. And these young voters were far less likely to call themselves moderates. 


Unlike older voters, those under 30 wanted the next president to promote policies that were more liberal than those of President Barack Obama.  


Like voters of all ages, voters under 30 prioritized the economy and jobs as the most important issue facing the country.  But they differed significantly from older voters in their concern about income inequality; 34% chose that as most important, the largest percentage of any age group. Health care and terrorism ranked much lower. 


The qualities they looked for in a candidate differentiated them from older voters too. In 2016, voters under 30 were notably less interested than older voters in a candidate’s experience and more attuned to whether he or she cared about them and was honest. 


But generating turnout among young voters can be a challenge. According to the exit polls, voters under age 30 were just 17% of all those who cast votes in the 2016 nominating contests. The coming months will determine whether that holds true in the 2020 nominating contests as well. 


Looked at more broadly, young voters are reliably Democratic voters in presidential elections and have historically favored Democratic candidates. While they were Sanders supporters during the primaries, in the 2016 general election Democrat Hillary Clinton won among this group by 19 points: 55% voted for her, while 36% voted for Republican Donald Trump.  In 2008, Barack Obama was elected with strong support from voters under 30, winning this age group by 34 points.  If recent history is a guide, whoever wins the Democratic nomination should continue to enjoy the strong support of voters under 30. 

Since 2004, The National Election Pool (NEP) and Edison Research have conducted the only national exit polls in the United States. The NEP is the source for projections and analysis for every midterm election, presidential primary and presidential election.