Haley captures independents and college grads, but Trump base holds fast in NH: Preliminary exit polls

(CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE) — Donald Trump held fast to his core support groups even as anti-Trump voters coalesced around Nikki Haley in the New Hampshire Republican primary on Tuesday, producing a far different race than Trump’s blowout victory in Iowa last week, albeit still a clear win for the former president, exit polling shows.

ABC News projects that Trump will win the Republican race over rival Haley, based on an analysis of the vote. (President Joe Biden is projected to win on the Democratic side.)

Strong turnout by unaffiliated voters and a comparative abundance of moderates stood out in preliminary exit poll results, underscoring the state’s often unconventional voter profile.

Forty-seven percent of voters reported being registered as “undeclared” rather than Republican vs. a previous record of 45% in 2012. Haley won those undeclared voters by a 2-to-1 margin.

Under New Hampshire law, the New Hampshire primary is open, allowing independents to vote for either the Democratic or Republican nominee.

Moderates, a strong Haley group, accounted for 29% of voters, compared with 9% in last week’s Iowa caucuses. Just 25% were very conservative vs. 52% in Iowa. And white evangelicals were 19%, compared with 55% in Iowa.

Haley ran evenly among women, the exit poll indicated, a 49-48% split. The margin of Trump’s victory came entirely among men.

He also prevailed by wide margins among groups such as conservatives, evangelicals, those focused on immigration, non-college graduates and those who expressed the deepest economic and social discontent. For example, he won 81% of those who said they’re “angry” about the country’s direction.

While Trump stayed strong with his base, two groups in particular showed non-Trump voters coming together for Haley.

She won 58% of college graduates in these preliminary results, compared with her 28% share in this group in Iowa. And she won 61% of self-described independent voters, up sharply from 34% last week.

A substantial one-in-four voters said they decided on their candidate within the past week, after the Iowa caucuses. Haley won these later deciders by a 24-point margin over Trump.

She did even better with those who decided in the past month. But those who chose earlier, nearly six in 10 voters, backed Trump overwhelmingly, by 40 points over Haley.

Haley won 31% of white evangelical voters in New Hampshire, up from 13% in Iowa, according to the exit poll. And she improved similarly among non-college graduates.

In another shift from Iowa, fewer New Hampshire voters were looking chiefly for a candidate who “shares my values”: 31% in New Hampshire vs. 41% in Iowa. More were looking for one who “has the right temperament”: 21% in New Hampshire vs. 11% in Iowa.

Trump’s best attribute group was voters looking for someone who “fights for people like me” as three in 10 New Hampshire voters picked it. He won 86% of their votes. Haley, by contrast, won 86% of those looking chiefly for a candidate with the right temperament.

Roughly 59% of voters said they’d be satisfied with Trump as the party’s nominee, compared to 51% who said they’d be satisfied with Haley.

Using self-reported partisanship, 45% in New Hampshire voters identified themselves as independents, near the 2012 record, 47%.

About 6% described themselves as Democrats. Roughly 49% of Republican primary voters identified as Republicans, tying the low set in 2012, according to the data.

While 35% identified themselves as part of the MAGA movement that Trump started, that was down from 46% in Iowa. Fifty-one percent were Biden election deniers, compared with 66% in Iowa.

Forty-four percent said that if Trump were convicted of a crime, they’d consider him unfit to serve as president. In Iowa, fewer, 31%, said the same. The former president denies any wrongdoing.

Eighty percent of Trump voters said they strongly favored their candidate, as opposed to liking him with reservations or mainly disliking others. By contrast, just 29% of Haley voters strongly favored her and 39% of Haley voters mainly disliked her opponent.

From a list of four issues, the economy (36%) and immigration (31%) prevailed in importance, compared with foreign policy, cited by 14%, and abortion, 11%.

Economic sentiment was sour, with 75% saying the economy is in not-so-good or poor shape. Relatedly, 79% were dissatisfied or even angry with the way things are going in the country today. And a majority of voters, 57% , said they expected life to be worse for the next generation of Americans — up dramatically from 20% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.

Trump swamped Haley among immigration voters, while the contest between them was closer among economy voters.

With regards to abortion, 27% of voters say they favor a federal ban, a sharp difference from 61% who favored it in Iowa.

Exit poll results may change as the night progresses.

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