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This year’s exit polls for the Republican primaries reveal how Trump has changed the Republican Party

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After Super Tuesday, CNN looked at the voters in the Republican presidential contests. They found that in six states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and California), most Republicans think Donald Trump is a good fit for president, even if he’s found guilty of a crime. In these states, the majority of Republicans don’t believe President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Exit polls help us understand who voted and what they think. But remember, these polls are just guesses and not exact measures. The early exit poll numbers from Super Tuesday haven’t been adjusted to match the final results yet, so they might change. In these six states, where they did polls this year, Trump is doing well. This puts him in a good position to get the Republican nomination again, especially since his main opponent, Nikki Haley, is struggling to get enough support.

In different states, the opinions of Republican voters about Trump’s suitability for the presidency and the 2020 election outcome differ. In California, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Iowa, 60% or more believe Trump would be fit for the presidency even if he were found guilty of a crime. Similar but smaller majorities in New Hampshire and Virginia share this view. The former president, facing 91 criminal charges in four cases, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In New Hampshire, only about 46% of Republican primary voters accepted Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The numbers decrease further in other states: 41% in Virginia, 36% in South Carolina, 33% in California, 32% in North Carolina, and just 29% in Iowa. It’s important to note that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

People who support Trump and those who support Haley have very different opinions on politics, especially regarding the 2020 election results. In states where this was surveyed, about three-quarters or more of Trump supporters believe that the 2020 election results are not valid. On the flip side, three-quarters or more of Haley supporters in these states accept Biden’s win. Trump’s argument and influence have been more successful overall.

However, there are some signs of dissatisfaction with Trump in certain areas. In states with exit polling during the GOP primary, like Virginia, North Carolina, and California, when asked if they would vote for a Republican in November regardless of the nominee, 70% or more of Trump supporters in each state said yes. In contrast, only one-quarter or less of Haley supporters expressed the same commitment. Although many of these voters may still end up supporting the Republican candidate on Election Day, the varying levels of hesitation suggest that a portion of the party is not completely ready to fully support Trump.

In the six states surveyed with entrance and exit polls, a significant minority of GOP voters identified themselves as part of the “Make American Great Again” (MAGA) movement. This ranged from about one-third in California, Virginia, and New Hampshire to nearly half in Iowa.

Across all states, most voters prioritized the economy and immigration as their top issues, rather than foreign policy or abortion. In the five states where the question was asked, the majority of voters, ranging from 55% in New Hampshire to almost 70% in California, supported Trump’s tough stance on immigration. They believed that most undocumented immigrants in the US should be deported rather than given a chance to apply for legal status. This marks a change from eight years ago when the majority of GOP primary voters in some states favored opportunities for undocumented immigrants working in the US to obtain legal status.

This year’s exit poll data shows that Republican voters have different views on abortion policy after Roe v. Wade. In Iowa, about 6 in 10 GOP caucusgoers support a federal law banning most or all abortions nationwide. Similar sentiments were found in North Carolina and South Carolina, where roughly half of primary voters shared this view. On the flip side, majorities in California, Virginia, and New Hampshire oppose such a ban.

Most GOP caucusgoers in Iowa and primary voters in other states identify as conservatives, with varying degrees of intensity. Trump gained strong support from those who consider themselves “very conservative,” a shift from 2016.

Trump also garnered significant support from voters who are unhappy with the current state of the US. In states where this question was asked, he won over 80% of voters describing themselves as angry. However, his lead was narrower among those who were merely dissatisfied.

This reflects a difference in preferences between Trump and Haley supporters. When asked about the main appeal of their chosen candidate, Trump’s voters, in most states, prioritized a candidate who is a fighter. In North Carolina and California, there was a more even split between wanting a fighter and someone who shared their values. Haley’s supporters, on the other hand, tended to focus more on her temperament or values.

Exit polls for the Republican caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and California were conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.

The Iowa Republican caucus entrance poll involved 1,628 interviews across 45 locations, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. The New Hampshire Republican primary poll included 2,192 interviews across 40 locations on Election Day, with the same margin of error. The South Carolina Republican primary poll comprised 2,126 interviews across 40 locations, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. The North Carolina Republican primary poll involved 2,157 interviews across 19 early in-person voting sites and 30 Election Day locations, with the same margin of error. The Virginia Republican primary poll included 1,712 interviews across 30 locations, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. The California Republican primary poll comprised 585 interviews conducted before Election Day, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

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