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 front–running 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!