Exit polls across Super Tuesday states showed Biden won strong support from black voters and consolidated support among moderate and somewhat liberal Democrats, along with a swing from late-deciding voters, on his way to victories in eight states.
Sanders led in Tuesday’s biggest delegate prize — California — and held about even in Texas, boosted in both states by Hispanics, younger voters and the most liberal swath of voters.
Here are five of the biggest findings across 12 statewide exit polls conducted by Edison Research:
1. Late deciders swung to Biden
Late deciders heavily backed Biden, according to exit poll results, an indication of how much he was boosted by his resounding South Carolina victory and late endorsements by Klobuchar and Buttigieg.
Exit polls showed Biden won roughly 6 in 10 primary voters who decided in the past few days in Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama, and won about half of this group in Maine, Texas and Minnesota. Sanders won no more than 3 in 10 late deciders in any state except his home state of Vermont, where Sanders and Biden ran about even.
2. Black voters boosted Biden across Southern states
The question of whether South Carolina black voters’ strong support for the former vice president was state-specific or more of a national phenomenon was answered on Super Tuesday. Exit polling suggested Biden won the votes of roughly 7 in 10 black voters in Virginia and Alabama and did nearly as well in North Carolina and Texas, getting roughly 60 percent of the vote, on par with his performance in the Palmetto State. Biden even won the black vote in California, a strong Sanders state, though he didn’t look to clear more than about 4 in 10 voters, with the rest divided among other candidates.
At the same time, Biden held his own among white voters. At the end of the night on Tuesday, exit polls suggested he had a greater than 2-to-1 lead among white voters in Alabama and nearly as wide an edge in Virginia. Biden had a smaller but still visible lead among white voters in Minnesota and Oklahoma and a smaller edge in Tennessee, North Carolina and Massachusetts. In Maine and Texas, Biden and Sanders were neck and neck among white voters. Sanders led among white voters in Vermont, Colorado and California.
3. Hispanic voters boosted Sanders
Hispanic voters showed a strong preference for Sanders in the states where they made up the largest shares of the Democratic primary voters, exit polls show. About 3 in 10 voters in Texas identified themselves as Hispanic and just under half of them voted for Sanders. Biden got about 1 in 4 votes from Hispanics.
The share of Hispanic voters was slightly smaller in California, but Sanders won the group by a larger margin in early exit polling, capturing a majority of their votes. Biden got about 1 in 5, giving Sanders a margin of about 30 percentage points.
4. Many voters wanted a return to Obama policies, and they favored Biden
One predictor of Biden’s success on Super Tuesday was voters’ enthusiasm for the policies of the Obama years, according to early exit polls.
Biden won among voters who wanted to return to Obama’s policies in Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, and the former vice president won outright in six of those states.
Sanders fared far better among voters who said they wanted the next president to pursue more-liberal policies than Obama, winning majorities of this group in California and Texas, among other states. But this group was often much smaller than those who preferred going back to Obama’s agenda.
5. Biden ran strong with moderates and the moderately liberal
Biden clearly dominated among conservative and moderate Democratic primary voters across most Super Tuesday states, winning majorities of these voters in several states and by sizable margins in every state except Colorado and Sanders’s home state of Vermont.
But early exit polling suggests that in many states, particularly in some Eastern and Southern states, Biden performed well not just among the segment of the Democratic electorate who considered themselves to be moderate or conservative, but also among the large share who called themselves somewhat liberal. In several Southern states, he won these somewhat liberal voters by a wide margin — by roughly 2 to 1 over Sanders in Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Even in Sanders’s neighboring states of Maine and Massachusetts, as well as in Texas, Biden’s performance was on par with, or slightly better than, Sanders among these voters.
In some Southern states, Biden even showed strength among the roughly 2 in 10 very liberal voters — picking up support from about a quarter of those in Tennessee and North Carolina and 4 in 10 of those in Virginia, with about half of very liberal Alabama voters also choosing Biden. In Texas and Oklahoma, very liberal voters strongly favored Sanders.
6. California’s liberal electorate favored Sanders
California’s markedly liberal electorate, even for a Democratic primary, provided strong support to Sanders. Two-thirds of California voters described themselves in exit polls as liberal, and they voted more than 2 to 1 for Sanders.
California’s share of voters who called themselves liberal was larger than most of the Super Tuesday states. Texas had just under 6 in 10 voters describe themselves as liberal. Sanders did not win them by as large a margin as in California. In Texas, he won about 4 in 10, while Biden was nearly 3 in 10.
7. Bloomberg’s last message on handling coronavirus fell flat
The arrival of the coronavirus in the United States added another X-factor to the Super Tuesday primaries. Overall, in the four states where exit pollsters asked how the novel virus factored into their vote choice, half or more said it was an important issue, including larger shares among black voters. Although Bloomberg sought to bring his post-9/11 management experience to bear on the crisis, purchasing a three-minute network television ad to address the virus, exit polls suggest he wasn’t able to translate this into votes. Biden won decisively among voters who said the virus was important to their vote across three states, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and edged out Sanders among the group in Texas.