-- Donald Trump cruised through the I-95 primaries, pulling economic discontent, his outsider status and pushback against other groups into a yet-more potent political package. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton relied on her customary strengths – plus a boost from perceived inevitability – to pad her delegate lead.
Trump dominated against opponents who never had much of a chance: Nearly six in 10 voters in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut – the states where exit polls were conducted – made up their minds more than a month ago, setting or matching new highs. He won a remarkable two-thirds of their votes, even better than his usual share of early deciders, about half.
Ted Cruz and John Kasich struggled to gain votes even in their top support groups. And their backers paled in enthusiasm compared with Trump’s.
The Democratic results were convincing but less overpowering. Clinton’s big win was in Maryland, where she reached beyond women and racial and ethnic minorities, winning whites and men by record margins in a non-Southern primary. She won more typically in Pennsylvania and narrowly in Connecticut; there Bernie Sanders ran well with men, beat his usual margin among voters younger than 45 and found particular resonance with Wall Street critics.
Exit poll results were analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. Our summary follows.
The Republican Race
Trump’s backers were fired up. In Pennsylvania, six in 10 said they were excited about the things he’d do in office, far better than Cruz and Kasich’s comparable scores. Indeed four in 10 Kasich supporters and a quarter of Cruz’s said they weren’t voting for their candidate so much as against his opponents. Few more than one in 10 Trump voters said that about their guy.
Kasich – and particularly Cruz – had difficulty finding and even holding on to their core constituencies. Just more than four in 10 voters in the three states with exit polls were evangelicals, 15 points off the average in primaries to date. And, remarkably, Trump beat Cruz by 25 points in this group, among his best performances among evangelicals this year. They split their votes between Trump and Cruz, on average, in previous contests.
Very conservative Republicans, typically a strong Cruz group, went for Trump by a 5-point margin in Pennsylvania, 16 points in Maryland and 29 points in Connecticut – the latter among Trump’s best in this group to date. Kasich, for his part, ran 22 points behind Trump among moderates, and their share of the electorate was hardly bigger in these three states than previously on average.
Substantively, as in New York a week ago and throughout the 2016 primaries, Trump’s victories were built on palpable Republican discontent with the status quo:
• Economically, 46 percent of GOP voters said Wall Street hurts more than helps the economy, and Trump won two-thirds of their votes. He even won 51 percent of pro-Wall Streeters; the rest divided about evenly between Cruz and Kasich.
• Trump won two-thirds of voters who are angry about how the federal government is working. And in Pennsylvania he pulled in 83 percent of those who want an outsider rather than a candidate with political experience, near the record set last week in New York.
• Trump also posted huge margins in the Pennsylvania results among those who support temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country and deporting undocumented immigrants.
Trump won three of the four candidate attributes tested in the exit polls. A third of voters were looking for a candidate who’ll “bring needed change”; he won 71 percent of their votes. Nearly a quarter wanted a candidate who “tells it like it is”; he won 89 percent of them. And he won 41 percent of those focused on electability, a group he’s sometimes split with other candidates.
He again badly lost voters who mainly wanted a candidate who shares their values, winning only 22 percent, vs. 39 percent for Cruz and 35 percent for Kasich. But this group was a bit smaller than in other contests, 31 percent vs. 36 percent previously.
Trump’s growing string of victories has yet to unite the splintered Republican Party. Forty-one percent of Cruz voters and 60 percent of Kasich voters said they would not support Trump if he is the party’s nominee in November. Four in 10 Trump voters said the same about Cruz or Kasich. And nearly half of Kasich supporters said they wouldn’t back Cruz.
There was a striking difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of their respective campaigns’ impact on party unity. In the Pennsylvania GOP primary, just four in 10 said the campaign has energized the party, while nearly six in 10 said it’s divided it. In the Democratic race, by contrast, seven in 10 said their race has energized the party.
Even among frontrunner Trump’s supporters, hardly more than half said the campaign has energized the party, and that dropped sharply among Cruz and Kasich voters.
There was not much appetite for a contested convention – largely because of Trump’s dominance. Overall, as in New York, nearly seven in 10 GOP voters said the candidate with the most votes in the primaries should win the nomination, vs. 29 percent who say that the delegates should decide. Nine in 10 Trump voters opposed a contested convention. Fewer than half as many Cruz and Kasich supporters agreed.
The Democratic Race
Racial and ethnic minorities lifted Clinton to an overwhelming victory in Maryland, with a further boost from an unusually strong performance among white voters in the state and broad preference for a continuation of Barack Obama’s policies.
Blacks, Hispanics and other nonwhites accounted for nearly six in 10 Maryland Democratic primary voters, with blacks alone accounting for nearly half the total. Clinton won blacks by her customary 3-1 margin, and all nonwhites by nearly as much. Notably, she also beat Sanders by 9 points among whites, her best performance among whites in a non-Southern state to date.
Clinton won seven in 10 women – better even than in her blow-out win in New York last week. Again notably, she also won men by a double-digit margin; as with whites, that was her best to date among men in a non-Southern state. She won white women by 22 points in Maryland and nearly matched Sanders among white men, both better than her typical results this year.
Among her attractions, Clinton far surpassed Sanders – by 3-1 – on who would best be able to beat Trump in November, by 2-1 on who’d best handle gun policy and even by more than 10 points on who’s the more “inspiring” candidate. Further, 62 percent said they want the next president to continue Obama’s policies, 9 points more than average in previous races; she won three-quarters of their votes.
Clinton’s victory in Pennsylvania was strong, if not a Maryland-style rout. Factors included her perceived electability, her appeal on economic issues and gun policy, again her links with Obama and a sense among Democratic voters that her policy proposals are more realistic. She also brought in her usual levels of support in some of her best groups – women, Democrats and older voters.
Clinton beat Sanders by 2-1 as most likely to beat Trump come November. And 73 percent in Pennsylvania called her policies realistic vs. 52 percent who said the same about Sanders’. She ran evenly with him on who’s the most inspiring candidate, not always her strong suit.
More than half of Pennsylvania voters said they’d like the next president generally to continue Obama’s policies – down from its level in Maryland, but well more than the third who’d like to see more liberal policies. Clinton won two-thirds of those Obama-friendly voters.
She also prevailed on the economic front. More than four in 10 voters cited the economy and jobs as their top issue, and she beat Sanders in this group by 12 points. And while Sanders won narrowly among the four in 10 who were very worried about the economy, Clinton prevailed by a larger margin among the majority who were less worried than that.
Voters roughly divided on whether international trade creates or destroys jobs, with Clinton beating Sanders by 20 points among pro-trade voters and running evenly with him among trade critics. In a point of resonance for Sanders, two-thirds of voters said Wall Street hurts the U.S. economy. He won them by 10 points, but Clinton won 3-1 support among Wall Street fans.
Clinton beat Sanders by characteristic margins among her better support groups, with six in 10 or more among women, Democrats and those 45 and older. She roughly split men with Sanders, while losing the much smaller groups of under-45s and independents by considerable margins. And voters younger than 30, while huge for Sanders, accounted for barely more than one in 10 Pennsylvania voters, fewer than their usual share in primaries this year.
Clinton easily beat Sanders in trust to handle gun policy and as a better commander in chief. But she displayed a continued deficit on the honesty front. Per usual, more voters saw Sanders as honest and trustworthy than said so of Clinton, eight in 10 vs. six in 10.
The race was closer in Connecticut – albeit still a Clinton win – on the basis of several factors. Whites, a more competitive group for Sanders, accounted for three-quarters of voters. Slightly more than a third of Connecticut voters favored more liberal policies than Obama’s, more than usual and a strong Sanders group. Sanders won 68 percent of voters younger than 45, vs. 58 percent on average in previous primaries this year. He was seen as more inspiring than Clinton, 55-42 percent. And he ran especially strongly in Connecticut among anti-Wall Street voters, winning them by a broad 24 points.
Sanders won men in Connecticut by 16 points; Clinton won women by 13. The difference: Women accounted for 61 percent of voters in the state – enough, narrowly, to deliver her another win.