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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. 

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! 

Democrats: Worried Sick About Health Care

By Evan Amereihn

The first Democratic Presidential debates start tomorrow. With more than 20 candidates vying for office, each candidate is working to break through the pack, win over voters, and make it to the second debate. As candidates hone their messages, they would be wise to consider the issues that are most important to Americans. The 2018 NEP exit poll conducted by Edison Research points to at least one clear topic to focus on: health care.

According to the exit poll, health care was the most important issue facing the country in the 2018 general election. Four in ten voters said that health care was the number one issue for them in deciding for whom to vote. And when solely considering the Democratic primary electorate, candidates should be even more focused on health care, as 57% of Democrats said that it was the most important issue.

If that isn’t enough evidence, 70% of all voters (73% of Democrats) said health care needed major changes. At a time when Americans are divided on many issues, both Republicans and Democrats agree that health care needs to be addressed. If the candidates have been doing their research, they will come at this issue hard on the debate stage this week and they will compete to propose the most appealing plan not only to Democrats but also the Independents they will eventually need in open primaries and the general election. Health care is the issue (again) this year, so get ready to hear more about single-payer systems, prescription drug prices, insulin price caps, and other potential health care solutions.