Profoundly Polarized Electorates Call the Tune for Trump, Clinton (EXIT POLL)

How voters on Super Tuesday voted and why.

March 2, 2016, 12:48 AM

— -- Profoundly polarized Democratic and Republican electorates called the tune on Super Tuesday, with demand for a plain-speaking outsider again lifting Donald Trump in the GOP race, while Democrats motivated by the opposite priority – political experience – boosted Hillary Clinton.

Combined results across the nine primaries held Tuesday night underscore the strength of each of these candidates’ support, even as neither ran the table. And – even beyond the fact that 79 percent of Republican voters were conservatives, while 60 percent of Democrats were liberals – the contrasts could not be starker.

In the Republican melee, Trump’s signature issues and attributes carried the day, with relatively little differentiation across population groups. The Democratic contest, by contrast, was to a great extent a demographic battle: Clinton and Sanders ran nearly evenly among whites, for instance, while she won blacks and Hispanics by 5-1 and 2-1 margins, respectively.

The GOP results also made clear the roots of Ted Cruz’s support – including strong conservatives, values voters and home- or neighboring-state fans – and left open the question of where Marco Rubio goes from here. Questions loom large for Sanders, too, since, overall, he lost mainline Democrats by a wide 41 percentage points.

Even with Trump’s victories, the results found a challenge for the GOP frontrunner: Among those who did not support him, three-quarters also said they’d be dissatisfied with him as the nominee, raising the issue of whether the party would come together under a Trump banner.

Here’s a summary of key results on each side, based on ABC News exit poll results analyzed for the network by Langer Research Associates.

The Republican Race

Setting aside the individual state results, 50 percent of GOP voters overall said they were looking for a candidate from outside the political establishment – and Trump won 64 percent of their votes, vs. 18 percent for Cruz and 7 percent for Rubio. As in previous contests, these outsider voters were critical for Trump, accounting for 84 percent of his supporters. He won a mere 8 percent of those focused, instead, on political experience.

Trump also continued to prevail among voters looking chiefly for a candidate who “tells it like it is” – winning 79 percent of their votes – or who “can bring needed change to Washington,” with 44 percent. These two groups combined to account for half the Republican electorate.

That’s fortunate for Trump, since he continued to perform dismally on the single most desired attribute, a candidate who “shares my values.” He won just 13 percent of the voters who picked it, vs. 42 percent for Cruz and 25 percent for Rubio. Rubio, for his part, easily won those focused on the most electable candidate – but it came last on the attributes list, marking his challenge finding traction with a broader base of GOP voters.

Two signature issues also indicate Trump’s advantages. His proposal to ban non-citizen Muslims from entering the country was supported by 69 percent of Republican voters, and Trump won 46 percent of their votes, 16 points ahead of Cruz. Fewer, but still 43 percent, favored deporting undocumented immigrants rather than offering them a path to legal status, and here Trump won 45 percent, 11 points ahead of Cruz. Rubio trailed in both cases.

Even where Trump didn’t win, he showed adequate strength. He and Cruz finished essentially evenly among evangelicals (nearly two-thirds of all GOP voters), while Trump won non-evangelicals by 12 points over Rubio, with Cruz third. And Trump trailed Cruz by 10 points among “very” conservative voters, rallying to win by 12 points among all others, with Rubio next.

Trump also prevailed regardless of partisan credentials – he performed equally among Republicans, independents and even the few Democrats voting in GOP primaries. Rounding out his night, he won angry voters over Cruz by 11 points – but also won those who were dissatisfied if not angry, even if by less of a margin.

The Democratic Race

Results on the Democratic side were more of a demographic battle. Clinton narrowly won white voters, 52-46 percent, while winning blacks by 84-15 percent and Hispanics – turning around the Nevada caucuses result – by 67-33 percent.

A gender gap worked in Clinton’s favor; she won men by 11 points but women by 35. She won “very” liberal voters by 9 points and widened her margin from there. She lost independents by 18 points, but won mainline Democrats by 41 – and they accounted for seven in 10 voters overall.

Clinton again lost young voters, but the turnout among minorities meant she lost them by less of a margin – Sanders won by 62-37 percent among under-30s, vs. more than 80 percent for Sanders among young voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Clinton won those 30-44 by 15 points – and those 45 and older by a smashing 71-27 percent. Over-45s, moreover, accounted for six in 10 voters.

Age by race differentiates these results. Sanders won by 53 points, 70-29 percent, among whites younger than 30, for example, but that declined to a 20-point margin among young Hispanics and reversed to a 22-point win by Clinton among 17- to 29-year-old blacks.

As noted, unlike the GOP contest, preference for experience trounced “outsider” inclinations in the Democratic races, 85-15 percent. And while Sanders won seven in 10 outsider voters, Clinton won seven in 10 of the far larger group looking for a candidate with political experience.

Personal attributes made a difference; voters focused on honesty and trustworthiness, long a weakness for Clinton, went for Sanders by 68-30 percent. But experience nudged aside honesty as the most sought-after attribute, and those voters went even more strongly for Clinton. She smushed Sanders among voters who cared most about electability, and battled him almost to a draw among those who put a priority on a candidate who “cares about people like me.”

Finally, Clinton showed again that a popular ex-boss helps. Fifty-six percent of Democratic primary voters said they wanted the next president generally to continue Obama’s policies. Seventy-eight percent of them backed his former secretary of state.

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