Exit Polls: Late Movement Hurt Donald Trump, Boosted Marco Rubio

Dennis Van Tine/AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Dennis Van Tine/AP Photo/Paul Sancya

With Ted Cruz’s come-from-behind victory in Iowa and Marco Rubio’s surge, we now move forward to New Hampshire knowing less than we did coming into Iowa. Will Donald Trump collapse? Does Rubio have any plans to win any state before mid-March? Can Cruz consolidate enough support to stop either one of the other two candidates? Iowa gave us few indicators.

But Iowa did tell us something about the type of people supporting each candidate. So, here’s what we know:

Sex. The Iowa caucus voters were 52 percent male and 48 percent female, according to CBS News’s exit polls. No candidate had a significant gender gap, however. Trump won 25 percent of men and 24 percent of women; Cruz won 29 percent of men and 27 percent of women. Ben Carson had a reverse gender gap, with 8 percent of men backing him and 11 percent of women. Rubio, surprisingly, had the largest gender gap, with 25 percent of men voting for him as opposed to 21 percent of women. We should keep an eye on that trend in future states — one of Marco Rubio’s draws is his supposed strength among women.

Age. The three youngest candidates in the Republican race are Rubio (44), Cruz (45), and Rand Paul (53). Among people aged 17-29, Cruz won 27 percent, Rubio won 24 percent, Trump won 19 percent, and Paul radically outclassed his overall percentage with a whopping 13 percent. Trump’s support base grew substantially with older voters; Cruz won every age group.

Education. Trump won the less educated crowd — he pulled 32 percent of the vote among people who had a high school degree or less, compared with 28 percent for Cruz. Cruz won among candidates who had some college, with 32 percent; Rubio won among those who had graduated college or were in postgrad study. That’s likely to benefit Rubio in states like Florida and New York, and it will benefit Trump in blue collar states like Ohio and Pennsylvania as we move forward.

Enthusiasm. Among people who had attended a caucus before, Cruz blew out the competition: 32 percent of former caucus-goers voted for Cruz, as opposed to 24 percent for Rubio and 19 percent for Trump. Among new caucus-goers, Trump won big, with 30 percent of the vote, compared with 23 percent for Cruz. This could be meaningful in future states like New Hampshire, where new voters don’t have to worry about sitting in the cold all day in order to vote. Trump did drive increased turnout, and he did win among those who showed up for the first time. He just didn’t win big enough to carry the caucus.

Political Orientation. Rand Paul has made the case throughout his campaign that he’d win independents. He certainly did well with them Monday night — he won 10 percent of the independent vote, while Cruz lost to both Rubio and Trump on that score. The conventional wisdom about Cruz is likely correct: He won’t bring in independent voters, so he’ll be relying heavily on the turnout game. That’s what he did in Iowa, where he won 30 percent of Republican voters, compared with 25 percent for Trump and 23 percent for Rubio. In fact, Cruz crushed the competition among the very conservative, winning 44 percent; Rubio crushed all comers among those who were “somewhat conservative,” winning 29 percent; and, destroying the myth that Trump appeals mostly to conservatives, Trump won among moderates with 34 percent.

Religion. Cruz destroyed all comers among born-again or evangelical Christians, taking 34 percent to Trump’s 22 percent and Rubio’s 21 percent. Both Marco Rubio and Donald Trump soundly defeated Ted Cruz among non-evangelicals, with 26 percent and 29 percent respectively. This gives Cruz an advantage going into South Carolina and throughout the South, but Trump and Rubio an advantage in swing states like Florida and Virginia.

The Issues. Amazingly, a plurality of Iowa caucus-goers said that their top issue was fighting government spending (32 percent), followed by the economy (27 percent), terrorism (25 percent), and immigration (13 percent). Trump won big among the latter group; he took 44 percent of those voters. Rubio won on the economy, with a 30 percent take. But Cruz won on government spending, with a 27 percent plurality, as well as on terrorism, where he had a 33 percent plurality.

How Voters Pick Candidates. A significant plurality of Iowa voters said they supported a candidate because he “shares my values” (42 percent); just 21 percent said they supported a candidate because he “can win in November,” another 21 percent said they backed a candidate because he “can bring needed change,” and 14 percent said they supported a candidate because he “tells it like it is.” As you’d expect, Cruz dominated among voters who worried about shared values (38 percent), while Trump dominated among voters who wanted change and bluntness (33 percent and 66 percent). Rubio cleaned up among those who worried most about winning in November — there, Cruz finished third, behind Rubio (44 percent) and Trump (24 percent).

Feelings About Government. Virtually all the voters said they disliked how government is working — but there was a gap between those who were “dissatisfied, but not angry” (49 percent) and those who were “angry” (42 percent). Among the angry, Cruz won 32 percent and Trump won 30 percent; among those who weren’t angry, Rubio nearly matched Cruz (26 percent) with 25 percent of the vote. And among those enthusiastic or satisfied with government workings, Marco Rubio cleaned up with 35 percent support.

Ground Game. Just 36 percent of voters said they were contacted by their candidate. Of those, 31 percent voted Ted Cruz, 23 percent voted Donald Trump, and 20 percent voted Marco Rubio. That means that Trump’s supposedly non-existent ground game did in fact exist. Trump, Rubio, and Cruz all competed evenly with those who were not contacted. 45 percent of voters said they decided for whom to vote in the last week — those people broke heavily against Trump. Trump’s support is hardheaded and long-lasting — for people who decided more than a month ago, 39 percent backed Trump; in the last few days, 31 percent backed Rubio; the day of the caucuses, 28 percent backed Rubio. Trump did indeed get hurt in the last few days.

So, what does all this mean? It means that Marco Rubio appeals to those who think about elections late; that he’s widely perceived as the most electable Republican; that his support is conservative and widespread. It means that Cruz has the best ground game, the most passion, and the steadiest presence. And it means that Trump has blue collar, moderate support.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and the New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


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