A powerful pushback against the established political order lifted Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders alike in New Hampshire, underscoring deep splits both within and between the Republican and Democratic parties.
Trump was boosted to victory by broad support among voters seeking a political outsider, anger at the federal government, strong worry about the economy and terrorism and substantial backing for some of his controversial proposals. He did best with less-educated voters, those looking for blunt talk and those who see better days ahead – classic elements of a populist movement.
Sanders, for his part, crushed Clinton on the personal attributes of honesty and empathy, whaled among independents and liberals and won young voters – including young women – by extraordinary margins. He prevailed by a vast 70-29 percent among voters focused on income inequality and ran very close with Clinton in two of her strongholds – mainline Democrats and nonwhites, as rare as the latter are in New Hampshire.
The question is where Sanders goes from here. While off their peak for New Hampshire, independents accounted for 40 percent of voters in the Democratic primary, far more than is customary in other states. Just 7 percent were nonwhites – a group likely to exceed half the Democratic electorate in South Carolina on Feb. 20. And a record 69 percent in New Hampshire were liberals, turnout that, again, may be hard to replicate.
Trump’s performance may be less difficult to repeat; while his support peaked among particular groups, he showed strength across the board, winning mainline Republicans and independents; men and women; and conservatives, as well as running competitively among moderates. Still, as in Iowa, he was weak among voters focused on a candidate who “shares my values,” an attribute that may gain salience elsewhere, especially in Southern states where evangelicals predominate.
What remains to be seen on the GOP side is whether the two-thirds of Republicans who didn’t back Trump coalesce around another candidate – perhaps as the field narrows – or remain fragmented. For the Democrats, it’s whether Clinton can pull herself up in the party’s mainstream, sharpen her appeal to young voters and overcome her longtime weakness on honesty and the common touch.
A detailed summary of exit poll results follows, analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates.
The Republican Race
Among Trump’s accomplishments was appealing to a New Hampshire electorate that was far more conservative than usual for the state. A record 71 percent of GOP voters were conservatives, up dramatically from 53 percent in the 2012 primary. Trump won 36 percent of all conservatives and 35 percent of very conservatives, the latter 14 points better than in Iowa.
Most fundamental was his appeal as a disrupter: Half of GOP voters said they wanted an outsider rather than a candidate with political experience; 61 percent in this group backed Trump. (The next closest was not close – Ted Cruz, at just 10 percent).
Trump benefited from anger and apprehension, as well. Four in 10 said they were angry with the Obama administration, seven in 10 were very worried about the economy and six in 10 very worried about terrorism. Trump won 42 percent, 38 percent and 39 percent in these groups, respectively.
Further, reflecting Trump’s resonance on a controversial policy, 64 percent of Republican voters supported his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. He won 44 percent of their votes. Fewer, but still four in 10, supported deporting undocumented immigrants; in this group Trump won 50 percent.
Trump’s blunt-spokenness was another source of strength. A quarter of Republican voters said they were chiefly looking for a candidate who “tells it like it is”; Trump’s single best group, he won 65 percent of their votes. He also won 36 percent of those focused on a candidate who can “bring needed change.”
As in Iowa, Trump did much less well among voters looking for the candidate who “shares my values,” winning just 13 percent in this group – and it was the most-cited candidate attribute, selected by slightly more than a third of voters. Last on the list was electability, tops to barely more than one in 10 – a group Trump split with Marco Rubio.
Trump was notably strong among voters who haven’t gone beyond high school, winning 46 percent of their votes. His support fell as education increased, to 23 percent among voters with a post-graduate education – though he was highly competitive even in that group.
Trump did well in one further group – winning 44 percent of those who said they’re optimistic about life for the next generation of Americans. Successfully combining deep discontent with current conditions, an outsider image and optimism for a better future are powerful elements of populism – making them well worth watching as the campaign proceeds.
As for the distant second-place finisher, John Kasich looked like Trump’s opposite in many respects. His best groups included those who oppose banning Muslims or deporting undocumented immigrants, moderates, more-educated voters, those who are “somewhat” rather than very worried about the economy and terrorism, who are dissatisfied rather than angry with the federal government and those focused on experience rather than an outsider.
Among these, a substantial 45 percent preferred a candidate with political experience – and Kasich got 28 percent in this group, followed by Bush and Rubio, with 20 and 18 percent, respectively.
A third of Republican voters opposed Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States; Kasich won this group, with 27 percent support. Kasich virtually tied Trump among moderates and liberals, 29 percent of the electorate (almost all of them moderates) – 31 percent for Trump, 29 percent for Kasich. But Kasich’s support plummeted among conservatives, to 11 percent, and they accounted for seven in 10 voters.
While Trump peaked among less-educated voters, Kasich followed the opposite pattern. He did best, 22 percent, among post-graduates, and worst, 9 percent, among those who haven’t gone beyond high school.
Nearly half of GOP voters decided in just the last few days, and Kasich was competitive with Trump in this group – 22 percent for Trump, 21 percent for Kasich. Trump, though, did much better with early deciders.
Finally, beyond vote preferences, Kasich finished second to Trump in trust to handle the economy – 40 percent picked Trump, 19 percent picked Kasich. Far as that was from Trump, it left Kasich with bragging rights over the rest of the field.
In the scrum for third place, Cruz’s best groups were strong conservatives, evangelicals and values voters – just as in Iowa. But there were fewer of them in New Hampshire, and they tilted less strongly to Cruz. Rubio did his best on electability and experience, and among voters younger than 45. Jeb Bush likewise did his best among voters focused on experience, but trailed Kasich in this group.
The Democratic Race
Sanders, as noted, prevailed in New Hampshire by way of his broad advantages on honesty and trustworthiness and empathy, as well as with support from an unusually liberal electorate. He beat Hillary Clinton among women as well as men, and split mainline Democrats with her while broadly winning independents.
As noted, Sanders also won by a huge margin among voters chiefly focused on income inequality, his signature issue – 32 percent of Democratic voters, they backed him by 70-29 percent.
As in Iowa, liberals showed up in force, accounting for 69 percent of Democratic voters, a record in New Hampshire. They backed Sanders by 60-39 percent.
Sanders won women by 55-44 percent, as well as prevailing far more widely among men, 66-32 percent. Sixty-nine percent of women under 45 backed Sanders (including 79 percent of women under 30), while Clinton won women 45 and older, by a comparatively narrow 53-46 percent.
Among all voters under age 30, Sanders beat Clinton by a huge 83-16 percent margin, another result similar to Iowa.
Also as in Iowa, Sanders won independents by a vast margin – 47 points, 72-25 percent. Unlike Iowa, he was competitive among mainline Democrats as well; they split, 52-48 percent, Sanders-Clinton.
Clinton’s challenges were perhaps most clearly revealed on candidate attributes. Six in 10 Democratic voters were most focused on the candidate who’s most honest and trustworthy (34 percent) or “cares about people like me” (26 percent) – and they backed Sanders overwhelmingly, by 91-5 and 82-17 percent, respectively.
Just more than a quarter of Democratic voters – half as many as in the GOP race – said they wanted an outsider. But they backed Sanders, again by a whopping margin, 86-7 percent.
While Clinton benefited from Obama’s coattails in Iowa, he was less helpful to her in New Hampshire. Forty-two percent said they want a president who is more liberal than Obama, and those voters backed Sanders by 81-18 percent.
Sanders also won big among those who are struggling financially, who are very worried about the economy, who think life for the next generation will be worse than it is today and who are dissatisfied with the federal government.
Clinton, for her part, did best among voters focused on experience (85-15 percent), electability (79-19 percent) and among those who want to see Obama’s policies continued (62-37 percent). But she only split the vote with Sanders among those who wanted an experienced politician (50-49 percent). Seniors were a comparatively strong group for Clinton – she beat Sanders 55-44 percent among those 65 and older.
One good way to see these differences is in a profile of each candidate’s support. Consider:
• Sixty-five percent of Clinton's supporters want Obama-like policies to continue. Fifty-six percent of Sanders backers want more liberal policies.
• Seventy percent of Sanders’ supporters have a negative view of the government, and 21 percent feel “betrayed” by Democratic politicians. The comparable numbers for Clinton are just 45 and 4 percent.
• Forty-eight percent of Sanders’ backers are independents, compared with 27 percent of Clinton’s.
• More than half of Sanders’ supporters pick honesty (52 percent) as the key candidate attribute; more than half of Clinton's pick experience (57 percent).
• Sixty percent of Clinton’s supporters think Sanders is too liberal; 48 percent of Sanders’ supporters think Clinton is not liberal enough.
• Just 8 percent of Clinton’s backers are under 30, vs. 26 percent of Sanders’.
Lastly, whites – 93 percent of the electorate – backed Sanders by 61-37 percent. Nonwhites divided, 50-49 percent, Clinton-Sanders. To prevail beyond New Hampshire, doing better among nonwhites – and in states where there are more of them – will be key for Clinton. So, though, is her need to broaden and deepen her appeal to discontented Democratic groups – and to address the persistent doubts about her honesty and empathy that, in New Hampshire and nearly in Iowa, gave Sanders the opening he needed.
Analysis by Gary Langer, with Gregory Holyk, Julie Phelan, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Margaret Tyson, Sofi Sinozich and Ally Brodsky.