Reading the Tea Leaves from the Early Exit Polls

The early exit polls are rolling in, and although the networks are not polling Minnesota (sadly), they are starting to indicate surprisingly close races in Arkansas and Virginia, at least.


Per ABC’s exit polling information, the news looks good for Ted Cruz in Texas, as expected:

Fewer than half of GOP voters – about four in 10 – are looking for a political outsider, fewer than anywhere else. Nearly four in 10 in preliminary exit poll data also say it matters a great deal to them to support a candidate who shares their religious beliefs, and six in 10 are evangelicals. Two-thirds say they’d be satisfied with Ted Cruz as the nominee, a high for him among all states in which we have exit polls – compared with nearly six in 10 for Rubio and less than half for Trump. That said, two-thirds of GOP primary voters in Texas want to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, as Trump has suggested.

The big stories right now are Arkansas, where there is an indication that Cruz may be performing stronger than expected, and Virginia, where Rubio might be performing stronger than expected.

First, Arkansas. Arkansas hasn’t been polled much, but Trump has spent a ton of time there and it has been largely assumed that Trump would win this state walking away. Quite frankly, and this is not intended as an insult to anyone in a state I used to live in, there were believed to be too many lower-income white Republican voters for anyone other than Trump to win. But the exit polls of the Arkansas electorate are showing a surprisingly high number of “very conservative” and “evangelical” voters. This matches what sources close to the Cruz campaign are saying, which is that they feel confident of a strong finish in Arkansas, and possibly Oklahoma.


Meanwhile, both the CNN exits and the ABC exits show that the profile of the Virginia electorate favors Rubio more than previously believed. Unlike virtually all the other states, only around 30% of Virginia voters indicated that they were “angry” with the Federal government, which is a pretty good barometer of the combined support of Trump and Cruz (especially Trump). Further, from ABC:

Half of voters want someone with political experience rather than an outsider, the only state today where that’s the case. Preliminary exit poll results indicate that fewer GOP primary voters in Virginia than elsewhere want to ban non-U.S. Muslims, deport undocumented immigrants or are angry with the government. And among today’s Southern states, shared religious beliefs are least important to Virginia voters.


All of this added up leads to a possibly very good night for Rubio in Virginia, who has been creeping upwards towards the 30% mark in Virginia polls.

These two states, along with Minnesota, might be the most interesting contests of the night, if the exit polls break the way they have in the early contests.


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