Exit Polls Provide Clues for Mega-Tuesday Results

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shields his eyes as he listens to a question as he speaks on Super Tuesday primary election night at the White and Gold Ballroom at The Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The first wave of exit-poll data has revealed important features among Republicans voting in five Mega-Tuesday contests.

The single biggest signal of a pending Trump success, so far, has been when voters made up their mind.

Voters who decided on a candidate several weeks to a month ago have preferred Trump by large margins. Those voters who made their decision in the last few days, i.e. the late-deciders, have generally gone to Trump’s opponents.

According to early exit polls, just around 40 percent of Republicans decided their vote a month ago. More than half of Republicans made their final decision within the past month. This is a higher percentage of late-deciders than we’ve seen in recent elections, which could bode well for some Trump challengers in certain states. According to a FoxNews exit poll, late-deciders in Ohio are breaking for Kasich against Trump 54-28.

Another factor in predicting Trump’s performance in a state is the anger of the electorate. Trump does far better in states where the Republican base is “angry” at the federal government, as opposed to merely “dissatisfied.”

Across the five states voting on Mega-Tuesday, Republican anger at the federal government ranges from around 33 percent to 40 percent. This is slightly lower than all the contests so far. It is considerably lower than in the states where Trump has won comfortably.

A new question in the exit polls provides perhaps the most fascinating glimpse of the Republican electorate. More than a third of Republican voters, 37 percent, say they would vote for a third party candidate in November if the nominees were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In battleground states like Missouri and Ohio, that number jumps to over 40 percent of Republicans. Just slightly more than half of Republicans across all five states say they would “definitely” vote for Trump if he were the GOP nominee.

However the returns shake out tonight, Trump still has considerable work ahead of him to consolidate the Republican electorate behind him. Trump is likely to claim the GOP mantle after tonight’s results, regardless of the particular outcomes. The exit polling, however, suggests he still has a ways to go to unite the Republican party behind him.