Donald Trump’s now-familiar calling cards won the day for him in Michigan and Mississippi, but with some results that marked his continued challenges trying to morph from a plurality candidate into one who can command a majority in his party.
Hillary Clinton, for her part, swept through Mississippi but stumbled in Michigan, showing vulnerabilities of her own in what seems, in exit poll results, to be the year of the imperfect candidate.
On the surface, all was celebratory for Trump. Even setting aside his resounding victory in Mississippi, in Michigan he recorded some of his best results this year among angry voters and those who favor deporting undocumented immigrants, as well as winning by his customary margins among those deeply worried about the economy and seeking an outsider candidate.
But the Michigan exit poll showed Trump’s challenges, as well. Half of GOP voters in the state said he’s not honest and trustworthy. Forty-seven percent said they would not be satisfied with him as the nominee. Ted Cruz beat him on both of these measures – and also tipped Trump in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup, 44-39 percent. Yet Trump won the state, as the non-Trump vote fractured between two very unlike candidates, Cruz and John Kasich.
Far more Republican voters in Michigan also said Trump ran an unfair campaign – 42 percent – than said so about anyone else; Cruz was second at 24 percent. These results, in sum, left open the question of how Trump can move beyond the voters who like him to those who currently, clearly, don’t.
Another weakness for Trump was among women voters – he roughly split them with his opponents in Michigan and won them much less widely than men in Mississippi, echoing his comparative weakness among women in national polling.
In the Michigan Democratic contest, meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ unanticipated victory indicated Clinton’s shortfalls among voters focused on honesty and trustworthiness or empathy and those concerned chiefly about income inequality, as well as young adults and political independents.
A full summary of the exit polls in Michigan and Mississippi follows, as analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates.
Michigan GOP Primary
Whatever the compunctions of non-Trump voters, he again tapped deeply into Republican discontent. More than six in 10 in Michigan said they’re very worried about the direction of the economy; Trump won nearly four in 10 of their votes. A third were angry with the way the federal government is working; Trump won nearly half of their votes – he’s done better only in Massachusetts and Alabama. And half said they were looking for an outsider, with Trump netting more than six in 10 of their votes.
Late deciders mixed up the race. Among those who selected their candidate in the last week, more than four in 10 backed Kasich – his best result in this group to date. Those who decided earlier were far better for Trump, as usual, and far more numerous.
Among those who preferred an experienced politician rather than an outsider, Kasich led with more than four in 10, followed by Cruz with a third. But less-educated voters and men continued to be strong groups for Trump, along with his customary support groups on attributes and issues alike. More than six in 10 voters backed banning non-U.S. Muslims from entering the country; Trump secured nearly half of their votes. Among the nearly four in 10 who supported deporting undocumented immigrants, Trump won more than half.
As in Mississippi, Trump extended his support in Michigan to another group, winning voters focused on electability – previously more of a Marco Rubio group. That means that among attribute groups, he lost only voters focused on a candidate who “shares my values.” A third of the total, they went, as most often has been the case, for Cruz, followed closely by Kasich.
Mississippi GOP Primary
Record or near-record levels of economic anxiety, support for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country and backing for deportation of undocumented immigrants lifted Trump in Mississippi – along with his trademark outsider credentials.
Six in 10 GOP voters in the state were looking for a political outsider – within sight of the record in this year’s contests – and a vast number of them, nearly seven in 10, voted for Trump.
Three-quarters backed banning Muslims from entering the country and Trump’s support in this group – more than half of voters – was his best to date. Half supported deporting undocumented immigrants, matching the high in this year’s contests, with Trump winning more than half in this group, well above his average among pro-deportation voters this year.
Further, a remarkable eight in 10 Mississippi Republican voters said they were not just worried about the U.S. economy but “very” worried about it, another high among all contests to date. Trump won more than half in this group, not far from his high this year.
Not surprisingly given the level of economic discontent, four in 10 GOP voters in the state said they were not just dissatisfied but angry with the way the federal government is working. While that was typical for Republican primaries to date, nearly six in 10 angry voters backed Trump – also close to a record for him.
Among other groups, Trump owed the extent of his performance in Mississippi to men – he won them by 20 points, while winning women by about half that margin, 9 points.
“Very” conservative voters, nearly half the electorate, set a record both within the state and across the 2016 primaries so far. Cruz’s slight advantage in this group wasn’t enough to counteract Trump’s broad backing among less-conservative voters.
Further, evangelicals also reached a record turnout – more than eight in 10 Mississippi voters. But Trump beat Cruz even in this group, drawing from evangelicals who were not primarily focused on a candidate who shares their values or their religious beliefs, and those who are less than very conservative.
While Trump again lost voters who cared mainly about a candidate who “shares my values,” more than half of Mississippi voters chose on the basis of two other attributes – the candidate who “can bring needed change” or who “tells it like it is.” Both have been trump cards for Trump all season; he won nearly half of change voters and 85 percent of plain-talk voters. And, as in Michigan, Trump won voters focused on electability, again denying this group to Rubio.
Mississippi Democratic Primary
Clinton cleared the table in Mississippi – winning whites by a record margin as well as overwhelming backing from the state’s majority black electorate.
Turnout by blacks as a share of all voters exceeded 60 percent, up from half in the 2008 Democratic primary. Clinton fared characteristically well in this group, with nine in ten of their votes. Clinton also won whites in Mississippi, by her best margin of the year, 65-34 percent.
Clinton again dominated among women, winning them by better than a 4-1 margin, a new high this cycle. And while she’s been weaker among men in other states, she won eight in 10 of them here.
In addition to blacks, turnout among mainline Democrats as a percentage of all primary voters was up this year, to more than eight in 10. They’ve strongly favored Clinton in most previous contests this season, and continued to do so in Mississippi. And, tellingly, seven in 10 Democratic voters said they want the next president generally to continue Barack Obama’s policies – nearly 20 points more than the average this year. Nearly nine in 10 of them voted for Clinton.
Perhaps most remarkably, Clinton beat Sanders among voters in Mississippi under age 30 – a group he’s won by nearly 30 percentage points across all primaries to date. Her support grew from there – to seven in 10 voters in their 30s and nine in 10 of those 40 and older.
Michigan Democratic Primary
The Michigan Democratic primary was distinctly different from Mississippi, with a broader focus on empathy and honesty, less on experience and electability – aiding Sanders in his successful Midwest comeback.
Sanders was helped, as well, by the relative dominance of white voters – whites accounted for seven in 10 Democratic primary voters in Michigan, compared with three in 10 in Mississippi. And independents accounted for nearly three in 10 voters in the Michigan contest – a huge group for Sanders, he won them by 70-28 percent. Clinton won just 57 percent of mainline Democrats, compared with her average 70 percent in previous contests.
Clinton, moreover, did less well with black voters in Michigan than in other states, winning two-thirds of them, compared with 80 or even 90 percent elsewhere.
Younger voters, who’ve fueled the Sanders campaign, showed up in force in Michigan; those under age 45 backed Sanders by about 2-1 and accounted for more than four in 10 voters, including two in 10 under 30, matching the high this season.
Sanders also won voters focused on income inequality – more than one in four overall – by 60-39 percent. And he ran evenly with Clinton among voters most concerned with the economy and jobs, the top issue; he’s done this well on it previously in just four states (those he's won, plus Massachusetts).
In another difference, 70 percent of voters were either dissatisfied or angry about the way the federal government is working – more than in any previous Democratic contest in which the question was asked. And among these dissatisfied voters, 54 percent backed Sanders. That was a turnaround; Clinton won them in previous states by 58-41 percent.
Clinton prevailed by wide margins, as usual, among voters focused on experience (winning eight in 10 in this group) and electability. A third put a priority on a candidate who “cares about people like me” and nearly three in 10 focused on honesty and trustworthiness. Sanders led in the former group – and by a wide margin, 4-1, in the latter.
Eight in 10 voters in the Democratic contest in Michigan were more interested in an experienced candidate than in an outsider. But while Clinton has won nearly seven in 10 of that group across previous contests, her share in Michigan was smaller, just more than half.
Given Sanders’ results on issues and among groups, it follows that more Michigan voters said they’d be satisfied with him as the nominee – 73 percent – than said so about Clinton, 64 percent. Of the eight previous states in which the question was asked, Sanders did better than Clinton in just one, New Hampshire.