Attention-Grabbing Trends from Primary Data So Far

Since the start of the presidential primary season on February 1st, we have been tracking voter turnout and primary exit poll/caucus entrance poll data released by The New York Times and CNN. In tracking turnout, we have observed a massive shift from 2008’s greater numbers of Democratic voters to this year’s surge of Republican voters.


Combining, weighting, and averaging exit poll data has allowed us to better understand candidates’ successes and failures by comparing their performance among specific demographics to their average performance, as well as that of other candidates from this year and previous years. The following observations apply to data collected through the primaries on April 26th.


Ten things that grabbed our attention and to be aware of looking at all this data: Turnout and Exit Poll Data


  1. This is the first report where the GOP turnout is lower than the DEM turnout in 2008.


  1. As the larger states are checking in, while DEM turnout still lags behind 2008, the lag is not as great as it was earlier in the primary cycle.  (As our footnote says, our turnout estimates are based on AP numbers the day after a primary, then rechecked a week later.  We are not trying to be the definitive source of 2016 turnout.  We just wanted to do a good faith ballpark to observe general turnout trends.)


  1. The GOP increase in turnout for the April 26th primaries is especially sharp.  Of course, an important factor is that we still have a competitive presidential primary going on compared to where we were in 2012 at this point, but look for a continued surge in GOP voting through June 7th.


  1. The first page turnout numbers are based on where both parties had a comparable election, so they differ slightly from the numbers when looking at only the GOP and DEM primary turnout on subsequent pages.


  1. We also do a lot with weighted exit poll results.  The candidates’ exit poll numbers do not exactly match their actual vote totals; there can be differences of a point or two.


  1. Clinton has received about 100K fewer votes than 2008, but instead of losing, is running about 10 points higher than her 2008 percentage of the vote.


  1. A critical trend is that each party’s share of the moderate vote has dropped from the last competitive primary.
  2. An interesting counter-intuitive finding is that 17/18-29 year olds comprise a higher share of the turnout on the DEM side compared to 2008.


  1. Yes, the cut in the GOP data confirms how much better Trump is doing among college-or-less voters than primary voters with higher levels of education.


  1. Our favorite page is #15 as you look at the incredible difference in the Clinton versus Sanders coalitions.



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