Anti-Trump Vote Coalescing Around Ted Cruz, Preliminary Exit Poll Results Show

Cruz is doing far better than usual in Wisconsin.

— -- Preliminary exit poll results suggest a coalescing of the anti-Trump vote behind Ted Cruz in the Wisconsin presidential primary – raising the specter of a ceiling for Donald Trump.

While Trump is doing about as well as usual in most groups, Cruz is doing far better than usual. Compared with his average in previous primaries, he’s +36 points among voters looking for an experienced candidate, +24 among mainline Republicans, +22 among strong conservatives, +24 among voters focused on shared values and +23 among those who cite the economy as their main concern.

While those groups stand out, Cruz is outperforming across the board – suggesting a generalized, not issue-specific, non-Trump vote.

Telling examples are in vote preference among candidates looking for a candidate who “shares my values” or who “can bring needed change.” Trump’s done poorly with values voters in the past, and is doing so again, with just 11 percent support. The difference is that Cruz is winning 64 percent of values voters in Wisconsin, up from his previous average of 40 percent.

Bringing needed change, by contrast, has been a better Trump group – he’s won voters focused on this attribute by 2-1 over Cruz, 46-23 percent, in previous contests. In preliminary exit poll results in Wisconsin, by contrast, it’s a 44-42 percent split in this group – again similar to previous results for Trump, far better for Cruz.

Some of this reflects the polarizing nature of Trump’s candidacy. Six in 10 Trump voters say they’re excited about what he’d do as president. But, half of Cruz’s supporters, and six in 10 of John Kasich’s, say they’re “scared” of what Trump would do in the White House. That’s also reflected in the fact that six in 10 Kasich and Cruz voters say that if no candidate wins a majority of delegates, the convention should decide the nominee – while 84 percent of Trump voters say the candidate with the most votes should be the nominee, even if he lacks a majority of delegates.

While Trump has held on to most of his previous support levels there’s one exception – he’s doing less well, and Cruz especially better – among voters focused on electability. Although they’re s small group, Cruz won seven in 10 voters who care most about the candidate who can win in November, up from 22 percent in previous contests. Trump won just two in 10 of these voters – down from a third previously. Also, asked who’d best be able to beat Clinton, 42 percent picked Cruz, 38 percent Trump.

Forty-four percent said they’re interested in an experienced candidate rather than an outsider (it’s averaged 41 percent in previous contests) – and Cruz won seven in 10 of those voters, more than twice his average, 33 percent. Other Trump issues simply played less well. Sixty percent supported legal status for undocumented immigrants, on track for a new high this cycle. (It was 59 percent in Virginia.). And “anger” at the federal government, at a third, was lower than its average in previous states, 40 percent. Angry voters have been and remained a pro-Trump group; but there were fewer of them; Cruz did better among angry voters who didn’t go for Trump; and Cruz did especially well among those who weren’t angry, doubling his usual score in this group.

Something of an exception for Cruz was moderates – he’s underperformed in this group compared with others. But in this electorate, there’s not a whole lot of them – three-quarters of Wisconsin GOP voters identified themselves as conservatives, a record in exit polls back to 1976.

A final result marking challenges for Trump came in results on the time voters made their decision. Among the four in 10 who picked their candidate more than a month ago, Trump won 51 percent, Cruz 38 percent and Kasich 9 percent. Among the six in 10 who decided in the last month, by contrast, Trump’s support was sliced to 26 percent, while Cruz won 53 percent, Kasich 18.