Nearly half of Haley voters in Ohio say they'd back Biden: Exit polls

The extent of intraparty challenges may matter in November.

March 19, 2024, 10:04 PM

Two in 10 to as many as three in 10 Republican primary voters in Ohio continued to resist former President Donald Trump's 2024 candidacy -- and among those supporting Nikki Haley, nearly half in an ABC News exit poll of Ohio's GOP primary said they'd back Joe Biden in November.

While majorities of respondents expressed fealty toward Trump, the extent of intraparty challenges may matter in what's expected to be a close contest in November against President Biden. Despite his having sewn up his party's nomination, 20% of Ohio GOP primary voters would be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee, exit polling found, while 22% said he lacks the temperament to serve effectively and 28% said he wouldn't be fit for office if convicted of a crime. (He denies all wrongdoing.)

At the end of the day, 18% said they wouldn't support Trump in November, with 10% of that number preferring Biden and 8% saying they wouldn't vote for either. Nationally, 6% of Republicans voted for Biden in 2020. Nonparticipation by some Republicans would be a further risk for Trump.

President Joe Biden speaks about the economy, on March 19, 2024, in Las Vegas.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Much of the criticism of Trump comes from Haley voters, who turned out for Ohio's primary despite her departure from the race. (Absentee voting in Ohio opened Feb. 21, two weeks before Haley suspended her campaign.)

Among her supporters, 88% would be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee, 91% said he lacks the temperament for office and 88% said he'd be unfit if convicted. Eight in 10 said they wouldn't vote for him in the general election, with 47% preferring Biden and 32% saying they wouldn't vote for either candidate.

Just 18% of Haley voters in Ohio said they'd vote for Trump in the fall, per the exit poll.

Sixty percent of Haley voters also called the Republican Party "too conservative," as did 19% of GOP primary voters overall. Additionally, as in previous races this year, a minority of Republican voters -- 42% -- considered themselves "part of the MAGA movement."

Tuesday's election put another element of Trump's influence to the test, as his preferred candidate for the party's nomination for the U.S. Senate, Bernie Moreno, prevailed. Moreno will now face incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown in November.

Endorsed in the primary by Trump in a square-off against the state's GOP establishment, Moreno, a former car dealership and a blockchain business owner, faced state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose father owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Trump attended a rally for Moreno outside Dayton on Saturday, denouncing Dolan as insufficiently conservative.

In a boon to Moreno, 79% of Senate primary voters in the exit poll results approved of the way Trump handled his job when he served as president, including 59% strongly so. And 71% said it's important to them that the state's next U.S. senator supports Trump -- with 55% calling this very important. In that latter group, Moreno led Dolan by 45 percentage points.

The ideological makeup of the state's GOP electorate was important in the Senate race, as well as the share of white evangelical Christians -- a core Trump group in previous primaries this year, alongside strong conservatives. Moreno ran 30 points ahead of Dolan among white evangelicals, 39 points ahead among those who are angry with the country's direction (another signature Trump group), 44 points ahead among very conservative voters and 45 points ahead among those who strongly approve of Trump's performance as president.

Moreno, like Trump, was especially strong among voters who don't have a four-year college degree -- 55% of the turnout. Dolan, for his part, prevailed among moderates -- and especially among those not looking for a senator who's tied to Trump.

GOP voters' conservative bent shows up in preferences on issues: Seventy-two percent supported deporting most unauthorized immigrants; 61% were enthusiastic or satisfied with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to abortion; and 50% said they'd support a federal law banning all or most abortions nationwide. (In a statewide ballot initiative last year, Ohioans voted 57-43% to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.)

Moreno did especially well in preliminary exit poll results among deportation supporters and abortion opponents; Dolan, among their opposites.

Returning to the presidential race, as in previous states, Haley voters looked different from Trump's on key issues: Far fewer -- 40% -- supported deporting most unauthorized immigrants; 37% were enthusiastic or satisfied with the abortion ruling; and 19% favored a federal abortion ban, underscoring fundamental gaps between the Trump and Haley camps.