Black voters power Biden’s early surge

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Voters cast their ballots in the Massachusetts presidential primaries, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Seekonk, Mass. Voters registered as Democrats or Republicans must pull their party’s ballots. Voters not enrolled in any party, the majority of Massachusetts voters, can pull any party ballot. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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(CNN) — Former Vice President Joe Biden swept to victories across the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama in the early evening of Super Tuesday, winning more than six in 10 black voters in all three states and handily defeating Sen. Bernie Sanders among older, more moderate voters.

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Black voters also propelled Biden to victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, and states with large black populations were poised to deliver additional victories across the South for Biden on Tuesday.

In both Virginia and North Carolina, Biden handily won voters whose biggest priority is to unite the Democratic Party, with almost two-thirds of that group supporting him as the nominee in both states.

Sanders, however, won majorities of voters under 30 in the three southern states, as well as defeating Biden among very liberal voters in both Virginia and North Carolina. And Sanders won his home state of Vermont by a broad margin thanks to support among liberals and young voters, winning about seven in 10 of each group. Sanders had also been leading in pre-election polls in the delegate-rich state of California.

Here’s what else the exit polls tell us.

Eleventh hour decisions

In Virginia, nearly half of Democratic primary voters said that they made up their minds about whom to support in the last few days before voting. In North Carolina, where about a third of votes were likely cast before Tuesday’s voting, nearly 3 in 10 still said they made up their minds in the last few days. About 4 in 10 in each state said they made up their minds before early voting began in early February.

In both states, white voters were more likely to say they made up their minds in the last few days than were black voters, including a majority of white voters in Virginia. Most black voters in both states said they had decided on their choice before February.

Democratic voters focus on how to beat Trump

As in early Democratic nominating contests, majorities of Democratic voters in every Super Tuesday state said they would prefer a nominee who can beat Trump over one with whom they agree on the issues.

South Carolina has been the lowest state where exit polls have been conducted to prioritize beating Trump over agreeing on the issues, 53% who want a nominee who can beat the President in November. Deep red states still have a majority who prefer someone who can beat Trump, like in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Virginia where around 3 in 5 say so.

In Colorado, almost 7 in 10 prioritize beating Trump over a nominee who they agree with on the issues.

Health care tops the issue list for voters

Health care was the most important issue to Democratic primary voters in Maine and Massachusetts, according to early exit polling from CNN.

Almost half of voters in Maine and 2 in 5 in Massachusetts and Virginia said health care was the most important in deciding who to vote for, followed by around a quarter in those three states for climate change. A quarter in Virginia chose income inequality, compared to around 1 in 5 in Maine and Massachusetts. Fewer than 1 in 10 voters chose race relations in all three states.

Health care has dominated the Democratic field, with Sen. Bernie Sanders championing “Medicare-for-All,” which would replace private insurance with a government plan, with moderates including Biden favoring the expansion of a public option within the existing private insurance system.

Almost three quarters of voters in Maine and around half in Massachusetts and Virginia support replacing private insurance with a single government plan.

Key states for black voters

Black voters made up about a quarter of the electorate in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. White voters made up about two-thirds in each state, while Latino voters were roughly 5% in each state. Black voters made up more than four in 10 voters in Alabama, and two in 10 in Texas.

The Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina, which voted on Saturday and was the first Southern state to cast ballots in the primary, included 55% black voters, according to the CNN exit poll there. Black voters were key to Biden’s success in that state.

Looking for an overhaul of how the economic system works

Inequality, which has been a major issue throughout the campaign, emerged as a major fissure for voters.

Almost half of Democratic voters in Virginia think the economic system in the United States needs a complete overhaul, while around the same think it needs minor changes. One in 10 think it works well as is. Voters feel similarly in Colorado, where around half say it needs an overhaul and four in 10 say it needs minor changes.

Voters choose between bringing needed change and uniting the country

A plurality of voters in Maine said they prioritize nominating a candidate who can bring about needed change, while around 3 in 10 want a candidate who can unite the country, 1 in 6 want someone who cares about people like them, and around 1 in 10 want someone who is a fighter.

In Alabama, more want a candidate that can bring about needed change, while another third want someone who can unite the country. Slightly less than 3 in 10 prefer someone who cares about people like them.

Democratic voters are angry about Trump’s administration

The share of voters who are angry at the Trump administration ranges from about half in deep red states, but climbs to a big majority in more liberal places.

Voters across the US are angry about the President Trump’s administration, almost 8 in 10 who say so in Maine, 3 in 5 in North Carolina, and a little over half in Alabama, according to early exit polling. Around 3 in 10 Democratic voters are dissatisfied in Alabama, a quarter in North Carolina, and around 1 in 7 in Maine. Few, around 1 in 10, are enthusiastic or satisfied in each state.

Ideology in the Mid-Atlantic

The two Super Tuesday states appear significantly more liberal than South Carolina’s electorate, according to these preliminary results. A majority of voters in each state described themselves as liberal in the early exit poll. In South Carolina, it was 47%.

North Carolina’s Democratic voters were a bit more apt than those in Virginia to describe themselves as conservative: Fewer than 1 in 10 said so in Virginia, while roughly 1 in 8 said so in North Carolina.

Methodology

CNN exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool in 12 states voting on March 3. Results are based on interviews conducted throughout the day with randomly selected Democratic primary voters at voting locations in Alabama, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

In California and Colorado, telephone polls were conducted to interview those who vote by mail. In North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, exit polls were conducted among randomly selected voters at early voting locations during the early voting period. Error margins vary by state, ranging from plus or minus 7 percentage points to plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Results of early exit polls can shift as interviews with those who voted later in the day are incorporated into the results, and these numbers may change.

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