Here's what we learned by polling thousands of GOP voters


Republican voters spoke clearly this primary season: Donald Trump is their undisputed leader. But below the surface, there’s plenty more to glean about where the party stands heading into the general election.

Entrance and exit polls taken across seven states over the course of the GOP presidential nominating fight reveal the strengths and weaknesses of Trump’s coalition, and where the priorities of the Republican base lie as the focus turns to a rematch with President Joe Biden.

The entrance and exit polls were conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, California and Ohio. In total, 12,000 voters were interviewed either in-person on Election Day or by telephone, email and text messages to include respondents who voted early or absentee.

Here are the main takeaways from these polls:

Most GOP voters knew who they would support well before the primaries even started

In the leadoff Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, about two-thirds of voters said they had decided who they would support at least a month before the contest. These voters overwhelmingly supported Trump — and it’s a dynamic that continued throughout the primary season.

A majority of voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina also said they decided who they would support before this year. And in Ohio, which held its primary on Tuesday, a plurality of voters said they made up their mind before 2024. Trump comfortably won all five contests.

This suggests Trump’s opponents had a small pool of up-for-grabs voters to vie for, even in the early stages of the race. While many Republican voters are entrenched in the Trump camp, the former president’s challenge will now be winning over middle-of-the-road voters who are more skeptical of him.

GOP voters were split over a nationwide abortion ban

Just under half (48%) of Republican primary voters said they would oppose a federal law banning abortion in all or most cases, while 44% said they would favor a ban. Trump won a majority of both groups, but he only won by about 20 points among those who said they would oppose a ban. He strongly dominated among those who said they would favor an abortion ban, with 87% supporting him.

Trump recently suggested he would be open to supporting a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is endangered. So he would not only need to balance this stance with a general electorate that public polling suggests is broadly opposed to a federal abortion ban, but with the split Republican primary electorate as well.

The economy and immigration were critically important to GOP voters

Trump has been vocal about the growing number of migrants seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border — a message that resonated with a large segment of Republican voters.

Most voters across the seven states polled said either immigration or the economy was the most important issue for them.

On immigration, just under 7 in 10 GOP primary voters said undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be deported to the countries they came from. About 9 in 10 of those voters supported Trump.

Republican primary voters also expressed broad dissatisfaction with the state of the economy as it continues to recover from high inflation. Roughly 8 in 10 said national economic conditions were not good or poor. Trump outperformed Nikki Haley by sizable margins among these voters.

These are issues national polls show Trump also has an advantage over Biden looking ahead to November.

Trump’s coalition shows how he has remade the Republican Party

The GOP primary electorate was largely made up of voters who were white, ideologically conservative, over 45 years old and did not have college degrees. Among each of those groups, Trump won handily, with three-quarters of the vote or more.

White voters without college degrees made up a plurality of the electorate across Republican primary states and they voted for Trump by over 60 points. Trump also won white voters who are college graduates — but by a smaller 18-point margin.

Just under 4 in 10 voters overall describe themselves as part of the MAGA or “Make America Great Again” movement. Only half of Trump voters identified as part of MAGA, however, and 41% of Trump voters said they’re not part of the movement.

There are further signs that Trump has coalesced the Republican Party around him.

A whopping 60% of Republican primary voters said they believed the unfounded claim that Biden did not legitimately win the presidency in 2020. Among the third of voters who said Biden did legitimately win, two-thirds voted for a candidate other than Trump.

Two-thirds of voters also said Trump would be fit for the presidency even if he’s convicted of a crime. Among the quarter who said Trump would not be fit to serve, three-quarters voted for someone else.

But there are still some warning signs for Trump

While Trump easily secured the GOP nomination, the entrance and exit polls show there are some potential weak spots for him as he heads into the general election.

One question that lingers is what the GOP primary voters who did not support Trump will do in November.

Ninety-five percent of Trump voters said they disapprove of the way Biden is handling his job as president. But GOP primary voters who did not support Trump are more split: 55% said they disapprove of Biden and 42% approve, with 3 in 10 saying they somewhat approve.

The demographic profile of non-Trump supporters stands in stark contrast to the former president’s base. They are more likely to have college degrees, are better off financially, and are much more moderate than Trump’s voters.

While these demographic differences may have boosted Trump in a Republican primary electorate, the general electorate is less conservative.

Nearly 7 in 10 Republican primary voters said they usually identify as Republican, while 3 in 10 said they consider themselves independent or something else. The states polled had different primary guidelines for who could vote based on party registration. Trump won self-identified Republicans by 64 points, but he carried independents by only 27 points — a potential concern for him in the fall.

Data reflects aggregated exit and entrance poll results for the states in which Republican primary polls were conducted: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, Virginia, and Ohio. Not all questions were asked in every state.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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