Who turned out in the Super Tuesday GOP primaries and what motivated their votes? Here are some of our observations of exit poll results from primary states voting tonight. This latest update is based on preliminary exit poll results.
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The Big Picture
A strong desire for an "outsider" candidate runs throughout all the states voting in Republican primaries today. Looking at all primary states, half of voters prefer an outsider to a political insider. Donald Trump is crushing it with "outsider" voters. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio split those preferring experience.
And in all nine states voting today, Trump dominates among the early deciders – those who made up their minds more than a month ago. Those who decided within the last month, by contrast, divide essentially evenly between Trump, Cruz and Rubio.
Just 45 percent of Texas Republican voters wanted an outsider, fewer than in other states. And while Trump won more than six in 10 of this group, Cruz dominated among the four in 10 voters who preferred experience in a candidate.
While support for a Muslim ban and deporting undocumented immigrants both were substantial in Texas, unlike in most other states, Cruz and Trump split these voters.
Nearly four in 10 voters in Texas said shared religious beliefs mattered a great deal in their choice, with Cruz pulling in four in 10 of them, vs. fewer than three in 10 for Trump.
Two-thirds of GOP primary voters in Texas said they support to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border – a signature Trump issue, but Cruz and Trump split these voters about evenly.
Evangelicals accounted for s in 10 Texas voters’ Cruz won more than four in 10 of them, compared with three in 10 for Trump.
Seven in 10 were mainline Republicans, and Cruz was winning four in 10 of those voters, vs. three in 10 for Trump.
Fewer than half of voters said they’d be satisfied with a Trump nomination, while two-thirds said they’d be satisfied with Cruz (and nearly six in 10 with Rubio).
More than four in 10 Arkansas Republican voters are “very” conservative, among the highest in any state tonight, and Cruz won four in 10 of them. Rubio and Trump came back among the four in 10 “somewhat” conservatives.
Eight in 10 are evangelicals, tops of any state today; they split between Trump and Cruz. Among the few non-evangelicals, Trump and Rubio divvied up the vote.
Eight in 10 said they favor temporarily banning Muslims, but – unusually – Trump split their vote with Cruz. Among the minority who opposed a temporary Muslim ban, Rubio held a double-digit lead.
Nearly six in 10 voters did not have a college degree, but Trump did not pull away in this group the way he has in most other contests.
Voters divided almost evenly on whether illegal immigrants should be deported or given a chance to apply for legal status. Rubio emerged with a lead in the latter group; Trump and Cruz split the former in preliminary exit poll results.
Six in 10 Alabama GOP primary voters in preliminary exit poll data wanted a political outsider – Trump’s most singular claim to fame – and he took home more than six in 10 of their votes.
Nearly eight in 10 wanted to ban non-U.S. Muslims from entering the country and more than half supported deporting undocumented immigrants, both among the highest of any state so far this year. Trump won a majority support in both groups.
Six in 10 said they’d be satisfied if Trump were the nominee, vs. fewer than half for both Rubio and Cruz.
More voters trusted Trump than any of the other top candidates to handle the economy, Supreme Court nominations and an international crisis alike.
Evangelicals accounted for three-quarters of Oklahoma’s GOP primary voters, and Cruz won nearly four in 10 of them, vs. about a quarter each for Trump and Rubio. Trump has been more competitive with Cruz among evangelicals elsewhere.
Trump and Cruz split the nearly half of voters who favor deporting undocumented immigrants. Rubio did best among the other half, who favor a path to legal status.
More than four in 10 here wanted a candidate who shares their values, and four in 10 of them backed Cruz got four in 10 of their votes, vs. about a third for Rubio and just one in 10 for Trump. That said, another four in 10 wanted someone who will bring needed change or who “tells it like it is,” and half of them backed Trump.
One-third of voters decided just in the last few days, more than in most other states (the average was about two in 10); Cruz and Rubio did much better among late deciders, while Trump, as usual, did best with those who decided longer ago.
Comparatively high numbers of voters in Tennessee said they support banning non-U.S. Muslims from entering the country (three-quarters) and want to deport undocumented immigrants (more than half), both very strong groups for Trump, here and elsewhere this year.
Moreover, half of voters in the state wanted someone who “can bring needed change” or who “tells it like it is,” again very strong trump groups. And more than half want someone from outside the political establishment, a group in which Trump pulled two-thirds support, on par with previous contests.
Trump faced a close contest with Cruz among very conservative voters, four in 10 of the electorate. And he did particularly well with lower-income and less educated voters, winning more than half in both groups, better than in other states voting today.
Evangelicals made up three-quarters of the electorate; four in 10 of them backed Trump, a challenge to Cruz.
A majority of Massachusetts GOP voters wanted someone from outside the political establishment, a great group for Trump so far, he won seven in 10 of them. And nearly four in 10 were angry about the way the federal government is working; Trump won six in 10 of them.
Trump also won six in 10 of those who don’t have a college degree – no one else was close (they accounted for four in 10 voters. And seven in 10 decided more than a few days ago; Trump’s took more than half of their votes.
Virtually half the voters in the Massachusetts GGOP primary were independents – a record this year. About half of independents went for Trump -- though he won mainline Republicans as well.
A majority of Georgia GOP primary voters said they were looking a political outsider – and six in 10 of them backed Trump. Half also said they’d be satisfied with Trump as the nominee, although slightly more said they’d be satisfied with either Cruz or Rubio.
Seven in 10 said they favor banning non-citizen Muslims from entering the country; fewer, but four in 10, support deporting undocumented immigrants. Trump’s broadly popular in both these signature-issue groups.
A record eight in 10 Georgia GOP voters identified themselves as conservatives, with the most growth coming from those who are “somewhat” conservative, up nine points from 2012 and a key group for Trump. It’s a more competitive race between Cruz and Trump among “very” conservatives, who account for four in 10 voters.
Seven in 10 voters made their decision more than a few days ago – as in previous contests, another strong group Trump.
Independents accounted for a third of GOP primary voters in Virginia, and preliminary exit poll results indicate a Trump-Rubio contest in this group. Also, more Virginia voters have a college education than in other states, a better group for Rubio, giving him some running room against Trump, who tends to do better among less-educated voters.
Half of voters said they want an outsider, a strong group for Trump, but Rubio ran well in preliminary exit poll results among the four in 10 who want someone with political experience.
Voters divided between looking for a candidate who “can bring needed change” and one who “shares my values,” – about three in 10 for each – with Trump winning the former group, and values voters splitting between Cruz and Rubio. Fewer than two in 10 wanted someone who “tells it like it is” or who can win in November, with Trump crushing among the former, Rubio among the latter.
Compared with most other states today. fewer GOP primary voters in Virginia want to ban non-U.S. Muslims, deport undocumented immigrants or are angry with the government. That’s an advantage for Rubio.
Among today’s Southern states, strong desire for a candidate who shares your religious beliefs was least important to Virginia voters, just three in 10, a disadvantage for Cruz.
Voters were evenly split in preliminary exit poll results between those wanting an outsider and those wanting experience: Kasich won nearly half of the experience group, Trump half of the outsider voters.
Support for Kasich and Trump also was split along the top two selected candidate qualities: a candidate who “shares your values” (a Kasich group) or won who “can bring needed change” (a Trump group). While Trump has consistently done well with the later, Cruz has dominated among values voters elsewhere.
This in part reflects the fact that only six in 10 Vermont voters are conservative, lower than in other contests this year (but still slightly topping the record set in 2008, and up substantially from 2012). There are, especially, comparatively few levels of very conservative voters and white evangelicals, each making up just a quarter of the electorate – Cruz groups in general.
A substantial number of independents turned out – nearly four in 10 GOP voters in preliminary exit poll data – and a third were either moderates or (a few) liberals, more than elsewhere. Both were strong groups for Kasich. Additionally, college graduates turn out in record numbers, accounting for over six in 10 voters, another good group for Kasich.
Now here's a summary of where we seeing in the GOP contests across states, grouped by key themes.
Save for Texas and Vermont, at least half of voters in preliminary exit poll results across the Super Tuesday states want the next president to be from outside the political establishment. That compares with about half of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and 61 percent in Nevada. Trump’s done very well among “outsider” voters to date, pulling in just fewer than half of them in Iowa, about six in 10 in New Hampshire and South Carolina and seven in 10 in Nevada.
One of Trump’s more controversial proposals continues to receive majority support in the GOP electorate. At least six in 10 GOP primary voters today support banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country, peaking at more than three-quarters in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. That compares with 65 and 74 percent in New Hampshire and South Carolina, respectively.
On another controversial issue, immigration, anywhere about four in 10 voters in Virginia, Texas and Georgia, peaking at more than half in Alabama, favor deporting undocumented immigrants, as opposed to offering them a route to legal status.
The record-breaking partisan nature of the 2016 election season continues in these nine states. Other than Massachusetts and Vermont, three-quarters or more in all other states today say they’re conservative, hitting nearly eight in 10 in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Evangelicals account for seven in 10 to eight in 10 voters in most Southern states today, except for Texas (six in 10), Virginia (just over half); it’s about a quarter in Massachusetts and Vermont alike. They’ve been one of Ted Cruz’s best groups so far, though Trump won among evangelicals in in Nevada and ran competitively among them in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
More than four in 10 in most Southern states say it matters a great deal to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs, falling three in 10 in Virginia.
As previously, shared values is at the top or near the top of the list of candidate attributes in today’s states (picked by numbers ranging from three in 10 to nearly half), followed closely in most states by someone who can bring “needed change” (a quarter to nearly four in 10) and by someone who “tells it like it is” (about two in 10 in most states); last on the list is electability in November (about one in seven). Cruz has done well in previous contests among values voters, Cruz among electability voters, while Trump’s won both those focused on change and on a candidate who “tells it like it is.” Values voters are especially prominent in Oklahoma, while change voters are most prominent in Georgia and Virginia.
With three clear leaders headed into Super Tuesday’s contests, the question of rallying around the eventual nominee is becoming more pressing. Here it really depends on the state. More would be satisfied with Trump in Alabama; with Rubio in Virginia; and with Cruz in Texas. Trump and Rubio do about equally well on this question in Tennessee; Cruz and Rubio in Arkansas; with little difference between the candidates in Georgia.
Many GOP primary voters also are angry with the government in Washington, D.C., ranging from a third in Massachusetts to half in Texas, and nearly all of them are at least dissatisfied.