New Hampshire Primary Exit Poll Analysis: How Trump And Sanders Won

Analysis of New Hampshire primary exit poll results.

ByABC News
February 9, 2016, 9:46 PM

Here's our take on what brought voters to the polls in the New Hampshire primaries tonight.


— -- Donald Trump was lifted in New Hampshire by broad support among voters seeking a political outsider, anger at the Obama administration, strong worry about the economy and terrorism – and substantial backing for some of his controversial policy proposals.
Trump did particularly well among voters looking for a candidate who “tells it like it is” and among those with less education. And he appealed to a New Hampshire electorate that was far more conservative than usual for the state, doing much better with strong conservatives and evangelicals that he did in Iowa.
Among key results explaining his showing:

Half said they wanted a political outsider; 57 percent in this group backed Trump. (The next closest was Ted Cruz, at just 12 percent).

Four in 10 were angry with the Obama administration; Trump won 39 percent of their votes. (Next closest, Cruz, 17 percent).

Two-thirds said they support Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. He won 42 percent of their votes.

Four in 10 supported deporting undocumented immigrants; Trump won 46 percent in this group

Seven in 10 said they’re “very” worried about the economy. Trump won 35 percent of them.

Six in 10 were “very” worried about terrorism. Trump got 36 percent of their votes.

A fifth of Republican voters were looking for a candidate who “tells it like it is.” While not a large group, it was Trump’s single best – he won 63 percent of their votes.

He also won 34 percent of those focused on focused on “change.”

Voters who haven’t gone beyond high school were Trump’s best group by education; he won 45 percent of their votes. His support fell as education increased, to 21 percent among voters with a post-graduate education – still highly competitive even in that group.
Trump also did notably well in one further group – winning four in 10 of those who are optimistic about life for the next generation of Americans.
His support was remarkably consistent among many other groups – by gender, ideology, partisanship, income and most age groups, save seniors.

And we're learning how Ohio Gov. John Kasich took the silver medal tonight.

Kasich reached second place as sort of the anti-Trump candidate, earning his best support among some of Trump’s weakest groups.
To whit: Forty-five percent of New Hampshire GOP voters were looking for experience rather than a political outsider – and Kasich got 28 percent in this group, followed by Bush and Rubio, with 20 and 18 percent, respectively. (Trump, as noted, crushed among “outsider” voters).

A third of Republican voters said they oppose Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States; Kasich won his group, with 27 percent support.

Kasich virtually tied Trump among moderates and liberals, 29 percent of the electorate (almost all of them moderates) – 31 percent for Trump, 29 percent for Kasich. But support for Kasich plummeted among conservatives, to 11 percent, and they accounted for seven in 10 voters.

Almost half of voters said they’re dissatisfied rather than angry with the way the federal government is working. Trump got 42 percent of angry voters, slipping to 30 percent of those who are merely dissatisfied – still enough to win in this group, but with Kasich next, at 21 percent among dissatisfieds. (Kasich did just half that well among angry voters.)

Nearly half of GOP voters decided in just the last few days, and Kasich was competitive with Trump in this group – 22 percent for Trump, 21 percent for Kasich. Trump, though, did much better with early deciders.

While Trump’s support peaked among less-educated voters, Kasich’s followed the opposite pattern. He did best, 22 percent, among post-graduates, and his worst, 9 percent, among GOP voters who haven’t gone beyond high school.

Finally, Kasich finished second to Trump in who’s most trusted to handle the economy – 40 percent picked Trump, 19 percent picked Kasich. Far as that is from the Donald, it left Kasich with bragging rights over the rest of the field.


Bernie Sanders prevailed in New Hampshire by way of his broad advantages on honesty and trustworthiness and empathy, as well as with support from an unusually liberal electorate. He beat Hillary Clinton among women as well as men, and split mainline Democrats with her while broadly winning independents.

As in Iowa, liberals showed up in force, accounting for 69 percent of Democratic voters, a record in New Hampshire. They backed Sanders by 59-40 percent.

Sanders won women by 53-46 percent, as well as prevailing far more widely among men, 65-34 percent. Sixty-nine percent of women under 45 backed Sanders (including 82 percent of those under 30 women), while Clinton won women 45 and older by 56-43 percent.

Among all voters under age 30, Sanders beat Clinton by a huge 84-15 percent margin, another result similar to Iowa.

Sanders won by 45 points among self-identified independents (72-27), and they accounted for 39 percent of NH voters – fewer than in past years, but still many more than in other states.

Nearly six in 10 were most focused on the candidate who’s most honest and trustworthy (33 percent) or “cares about people like me” (26 percent) – they backed Sanders overwhelmingly, by 92-6 and 81-18 percent, respectively.

A quarter of voters wanted an outsider; they backed Sanders again a whopping margin, 89-8 percent.

While Clinton benefited from Obama’s coattails in Iowa, he was less helpful to her in New Hampshire; 41 percent said want a president who is more liberal than Obama, and those voters backed Sanders by a vast 80-19 percent.

Sanders also won big among those who are struggling financially, who are very worried about the economy, who think life for the next generation will be worse than it is today and who are dissatisfied with the federal government.

Clinton, for her part, did best among those focused on experience (87-13 percent), electability (81-18 percent) and among those who want to see Obama’s policies continued (64-36 percent vs. Sanders). She also did best among those who want an experienced politician (53-47 percent) and who are satisfied with the way government is working (56-44 percent). And seniors continue to be a strong group for Clinton – she beat Sanders 59-41 percent among those 65 and older.

Whites – 93 percent of the electorate – backed Sanders by 59-40 percent. Nonwhites roughly divided, 52-48 percent, Clinton-Sanders.

Ideological divisions are sharper than ever.

Record levels of political polarization are occurring on both sides, with more Republican voters than ever saying they’re conservative and Democratic voters saying they’re liberal.
Conservatives’ share of the GOP electorate is 21 points higher than in the 2012 GOP primary in New Hampshire. Liberals’ share of the Democratic electorate is 12 points greater than in the 2008 Democratic primary.
Here’s one way those ideological divisions play out: Among Republican voters, two-thirds support temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country; fewer, but still four in 10, support deporting illegal immigrants.

Independents are turning out in substantial numbers in both the Republican and Democratic primaries

Many voters in both contests expressed interest in a political outsider for their parties’ nominees.

Political independents account for about four in 10 primary voters in both the Republican and Democratic contests, according to preliminary exit poll results. That’s typical of the usually high turnout among independents in New Hampshire. They’re less prevalent in other state primaries.

Nearly half of Republicans say they’re looking for a candidate from “outside the political establishment” – sentiment that’s boosted Donald Trump in Iowa and in national polls alike. On the Democratic side, fewer, about a quarter, are looking for an outsider.

There’s considerable anxiety about the direction of the economy and the chance of another major terrorist attack among voters on both sides, but the sentiment is much broader and deeper among GOP voters.

There are plenty of self-identified late deciders, especially on the GOP side: Nearly half of Republican primary voters in these preliminary New Hampshire exit poll results say they finally picked their candidate only within the last few days. Fewer Democrats are later deciders, about two in 10.


As usual for New Hampshire, turnout by evangelicals is lower than in Iowa, where they were key to Ted Cruz’s first-place finish. Evangelicals account for about a quarter of Republican voters in these preliminary New Hampshire results, vs. 64 percent in Iowa.

Strong conservatives account for three in 10 GOP voters in New Hampshire, vs. 40 percent in Iowa. That said, three-quarters in New Hampshire are conservatives overall in these preliminary results, up sharply from 53 percent in the 2012 primary.

More than four in 10 Republican voters in New Hampshire say they’re angry with the way the federal government is working. It was a similar 42 percent in Iowa.

Preliminary results find some support for two of Trump’s more controversial proposals. Two-thirds of New Hampshire GOP voters favor temporarily banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country and four in 10 say undocumented immigrants should be deported.

In terms of candidate attributes, desire for a candidate who “shares my values” or “can bring needed change” are cited most often, followed by one who “tells it like it is.” Preference for a candidate who can win in November trails far behind.

On the issues, the economy/jobs, government spending and terrorism attract similar attention as the top issue, with immigration far behind. (More GOP voters say a candidate’s positions on the issues are more important to their vote than personal qualities.)

Among the top six candidates in New Hampshire, many more say Trump would best handle the economy and an international crisis alike, followed by John Kasich on the economy and a log jam among Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Chris Christie on an international crisis.

Half of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire say they’d be satisfied with Trump as the eventual nominee, vs. about four in 10 for Rubio and Cruz alike.


Honesty and trustworthiness is the most important candidate attribute, selected by more than three in 10 voters in preliminary exit poll results. Next are “someone who cares about people like me” and experience, at just more than a quarter each. Only about one in 10 are choosing “electability” as the top attribute. In Iowa, Sanders won with honesty and empathy voters, Clinton on experience and electability.

Far more New Hampshire voters see Sanders as honest and trustworthy than Clinton, and they feel he shares their values more so than she does.

Nearly seven in 10 voters in the Democratic primary describe themselves as liberals, including a quarter who say they’re very liberal, both up from 2008, when 56 percent identified as liberal and 20 percent said they were very liberal. If they hold, those would be new highs in exit polls back to 1980.

As in Iowa (and as in GOP contests), voters here are overwhelmingly white, more than 90 percent in preliminary exit poll results. That’s a sharp contrast to the next states: Whites accounted for just 43 percent of voters in South Carolina in 2008, 65 percent in the Nevada caucuses and an identical 65 percent across all Democratic contests that year.

More than six in 10 voters are college grads and three in 10 have post-graduate degrees, up from 54 and 23 percent in 2008, respectively. These could end up as record highs in data back to 1976.

Roughly one in seven Democratic voters is younger than 30 in preliminary results, similar to recent years. They were a remarkably strong group for Sanders in Iowa, where he won 84 percent of caucus-goers younger than 30. On the other end, more than two in 10 voters are seniors, up from 13 percent in 2008, and Clinton’s best age group in Iowa.

An overwhelming nine in 10 voters say the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy, a Sanders battle cry.

And nearly four in 10 believe life for the next generation will be worse.

Among four issues, more Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire say income inequality or the economy/jobs are their top issues, each cited by about a third. Health care is a top issue for about a quarter of voters, while terrorism trails far behind in priority.

Sanders does much better than Clinton in trust to handle income inequality and the economy, and somewhat better on health care; they’re even on gun policy. Clinton beats Sanders in trust to handle one remaining issue: an international crisis.

A third say Clinton is not liberal enough, while just more than half say she’s about right on the issues. For Sanders, a quarter say he’s too liberal, vs. seven in 10 who say he’s about right.

Two-thirds of voters support replacing the current health care system with a “single taxpayer-funded plan for all Americans,” a policy Sanders has championed.

Majorities of voters would be satisfied with either candidate as the nominee, but more in this state say they’d be happy with Sanders than Clinton, nearly eight in 10 vs. two-thirds, in these preliminary results.

Fewer voters think the next president should continue Barack Obama’s policies than in Iowa – roughly four in 10 in preliminary results here, vs. 55 percent last week, where Obama’s cloak boosted Clinton’s narrow victory. In New Hampshire, about as many want more liberal policies than Obama’s.

Turnout among women is typically high, similar to 57 percent turnout in 2008 (and a peak of 62 percent in 2000).

Stay tuned for more updates all night long.

Edison Research conducted this exit poll at polling places throughout New Hampshire today for the National Election Pool. The results were analyzed here by Langer Research Associates for ABC News. Analysts: Gary Langer, Gregory Holyk, Julie Phelan, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Meg Tyson, Sofi Sinozich and Ally Brodsky.

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