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March 10th: Another Good Night for Joe Biden

By Sarah Dutton 

Joe Biden won a large share of the delegates at stake in the March 10 primaries, besting Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. North Dakota went to Sanders. (At the time of this writing, Biden and Sanders were neck and neck in Washington.) Here are some takeaways from the Edison exit poll data in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington that help explain why Biden did so well.  

Michigan 

In Michigan, which Bernie Sanders won four years ago, Sanders’ support was down among many demographic groups compared to 2016. In 2016, he won among men, white voters, white voters without a college degree and union households – all groups he lost to Biden this year. And Sanders’ support was down this year among women, voters age 45 and older, and moderates (groups he lost in 2016 and 2020).  

Mississippi 

Large turnout in Mississippi, where nearly seven in ten voters were African American and 87% of them voted for Biden, powered his huge win there. 74% of black voters want to see a return to the policies of Barack Obama.

Sanders was unable to win over many black voters in Michigan (27%) or Missouri (24%) either. 

Missouri 

In Missouri, turnout among voters 65 and over rose from 22% to 31%, and Biden won them by a large margin, 81% to 14% for Sanders. Across all age groups, Sanders’ support was down this year compared to 2016, but especially so among older voters.

Sanders lost among both men and women here; in 2016, he won among men.

 Washington 

In Washington, where 81% are very or somewhat concerned about the Coronavirus, Biden is seen as the best candidate to handle a major crisis – 44% chose him, versus 27% for Sanders. (Biden came out on top in this measure in Michigan too, 50% to 31%.) 

Washington’s primary voters were primarily white. Biden won among whites both with (32% vs 26%) and without (37% vs. 34%) a college education.

 

Candidate Supporters 

The Edison exit poll data clearly demonstrate the excitement many Sanders’ supporters feel about his candidacy.  In Michigan, Missouri and Washington, more than four in five Sanders voters would be enthusiastic about him as the party’s nominee.

But Joe Biden currently leads in the all-important delegate count. How will Sanders’ supporters feel if their candidate is not the nominee? Few Sanders voters in these three states would be enthusiastic about Biden as the Democratic candidate, and just about a fifth will be upset. 

But as was the case on Super Tuesday, large majorities of Sanders voters in all three states say they will vote for the Democratic nominee in November, no matter which candidate wins the nomination.

 

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.