Republican Primary Exit Poll Analysis

There are 4 contests Tuesday for the GOP presidential candidates.

ByABC News
March 8, 2016, 10:00 PM

— -- Who turned out in Tuesday's primaries and caucuses and what motivated their votes?

Republicans voted in three primaries: Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho. Hawaii also held its Republican caucuses Tuesday.

Emerging Themes

Here's a summary of what we saw in the GOP contests across states, grouped by key themes.

Two different races took shape in the Michigan and Mississippi Republican primaries. In Mississippi, nearly all voters were evangelicals and mainline Republicans, with a high number of strong conservatives. In Michigan, by contrast, far fewer were in either of those groups, and there are notably more political independents voting.

In hypothetical two-way races, Trump leads Rubio by a wide margin and Cruz by a much closer one in Mississippi. In Michigan, Trump-Cruz and Trump-Rubio head-to-heads are close.


Record or near-record levels of economic anxiety, support for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country and backing for deportation of Muslims lifted Donald Trump in Mississippi – along with his trademark outsider credentials.


Half of GOP primary voters in Mississippi support deporting undocumented immigrants rather than giving them a path to legal status, higher than the average from previous primaries. In Michigan, fewer but nearly four in 10 support deportation. Deportation supporters have been another strong group for Trump in past contests. Rubio’s done much better among the somewhat larger group of voters who’d prefer a path to legal status (similar to Kasich in New Hampshire).


Not surprisingly given the level of economic discontent, four in 10 GOP voters in the state said they were not just dissatisfied but downright angry with the way the federal government is working. While that was typical for Republican primaries to date, exit poll data indicated that nearly six in 10 angry voters were backing Trump – also close to a record for him, if it holds.


At the same time, more than half said they were looking for an outsider, with Trump netting six in 10 percent of their votes. Among those who preferred experience, Kasich led with more than four in 10, followed by Cruz with a third.

Banning Muslims

Six in 10 voters supported banning non-U.S. Muslims from entering the country and Trump secured nearly half of their votes; Cruz took a quarter of them, while Kasich won four in 10 of those who opposed this step. Among the nearly four in 10 who supported deporting undocumented immigrants, Trump again won half, doing far less well among those who said they’d like a path to legal status.

Trump v. Cruz

Working against Trump is his perceived lack of honesty. Just slightly more than half in Mississippi and fewer than half in Michigan think he’s honest and trustworthy. Cruz does better than Trump in both states on this, while Rubio only does better than Trump in Michigan.

Trump’s honesty and satisfaction numbers in Michigan mark his challenges – about half of voters in the GOP primary there, in exit poll results, don’t see him as honest and trustworthy and say they’d be dissatisfied if he won the nomination:

This is less so in Mississippi, but not inconsequential – there four in 10 doubt Trump’s honesty and would be dissatisfied with him as the nominee.

Record or near-record levels of economic anxiety, support for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country and backing for deportation of Muslims were helping Donald Trump in Mississippi – along with his trademark outsider credentials. Ted Cruz pushed back with high turnout among evangelicals and strong conservatives

Trump again lost voters who cared mainly about a candidate who “shares your values,” and by a wide margin. But more than six in 10 Mississippi voters chose on the basis of two other attributes – the candidate who “can bring needed change” or who “tells it like it is,” and they went broadly for Trump

Voter Turnout

Turnout among “very” conservative voters, half the electorate, set a record both within the state and across the 2016 primaries so far. They’ve been a better group for Cruz this year. And evangelicals also reached a record turnout – more than eight in 10 Mississippi voters, another group in which Cruz has been particularly competitive with Trump.

Late deciders titled heavily to John Kasich in Michigan, mixing up the race there. But less-educated voters and men continued to be strong support groups for Donald Trump, along with his customary support groups on attributes and issues.

Among those who selected their candidate in the last week, exit poll results indicated that 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.


These two states differ somewhat in how satisfied they’d be with the top three candidates as the nominee. In Michigan, there’s not much daylight between the candidates, where about half say they’d be satisfied with Trump, Cruz and Rubio alike. In Mississippi, six in 10 would be satisfied with both Cruz and Trump, vs. just four in 10 with Rubio. To date, more GOP primary voters have found Cruz and Rubio acceptable than Trump (57 and 56 percent, vs. Trump’s 48 percent).