The Democratic primary took a dramatic turn on Super Tuesday, with Joe Biden winning at least eight states to continue his comeback story. At the same time, Bernie Sanders took home at least four states, including a win in delegate-rich California, to set up a showdown between the two in the primaries ahead. Maine and the key state of Texas remained extraordinarily close.
Preliminary data from surveys in eight states conducted as part of the Fox News Voter Analysis sheds light on why the Super Tuesday results shook out the way they did – though these numbers may change slightly as more results come in.
Biden’s resounding win on Saturday in South Carolina gave him a much-needed boost and pushed fellow moderates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg out of the race. Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke all endorsed Biden at an event in Dallas on Monday night, bolstering the sense of a campaign gathering steam.
Late-deciding voters clearly bought into the idea that Biden was still in the game. More than a quarter of voters in each state said they made up their minds in the last few days – including more than half of those in Minnesota. Biden won late deciders by at least 15 points in every state but California, and by roughly 30 points or more in Virginia, Alabama, Minnesota, and North Carolina.
Sanders’ main sources of strength continue to be young and very liberal voters. He won better than four-in-10 voters under age 30 in each Super Tuesday state, topping out at 60 percent in a trio of states. Similarly, Sanders won at least four-in-10 of those who called themselves “very liberal” in each state.
By contrast, Biden’s base was seniors and, to a lesser degree, political moderates. He won at least four-in-10 voters over age 65 in every state except California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.
Among both seniors and moderates, Mike Bloomberg’s presence in the race appears to have complicated Biden’s path to victory. Roughly two-in-10 seniors in each state (except Minnesota and Massachusetts) backed the former mayor, and he picked up roughly 15 percent of the moderate vote or more in each state.
The Sanders campaign invested heavily in outreach to the Latino community, and it paid off in the states with the largest Hispanic populations. Biden narrowly edged Bloomberg as Latinos’ second choice.
Sanders’ strength among Latinos was balanced by Biden’s success with black voters. Biden won roughly half of the black vote (or better) in every state except for California (36 percent). Sanders’ best performance among black voters was 26 percent in North Carolina, followed by 24 percent in California.
Biden won white voters in Alabama, Virginia, and Minnesota; Sanders won whites in Colorado, and the two were deadlocked (or nearly so) in the remaining states.
Whites without a college degree went for Sanders by double-digit margins in Colorado and backed Biden by 11 percentage points in Alabama and 15 points in Virginia. The margins among this group in the other states were razor-thin.
The best groups for Bloomberg tended to overlap directly with sources of Biden’s strength: seniors, blacks, and political moderates. Biden’s late surge, however, effectively pushed Bloomberg off the map – the billionaire got less than two-in-10 late-deciding voters in each state.
Adding to Bloomberg’s difficult night was a failure to connect on his signature issues. Despite committing a considerable amount of his personal fortune to gun control and combating climate change, he won no more than two-in-10 voters who prioritized those issues in each state. Similarly, Bloomberg’s attempt to position himself as the candidate most likely to beat President Trump fell short – in each state, he got 20 percent or less among those who said beating President Trump was a very important quality for their nominee.
Most Super Tuesday voters – six-in-10 in most states, with a high of 73 percent in Minnesota – said it was important to them that a woman be elected president in their lifetime. Elizabeth Warren won 29 percent of these voters in Massachusetts, but still lost her adopted home state. In each other state, she won less than a quarter of those who wanted to see a female president in their lifetime.
Issues and policies
As in the early primary states, more Super Tuesday voters wanted a candidate who would bring fundamental change to the political system than one who would restore it to the way it was before the Trump administration. That was particularly true in California and Colorado, two of the best states for Sanders.
At the same time, about six-in-10 voters wanted a candidate offering practical, centrist policies over one promising bold liberal ideas – even in more liberal states like California.
Biden won “restore” voters in each state, while Sanders won “change” voters everywhere except for Alabama (where they went for Biden). Similarly, voters wanting centrist policies opted for Biden in each state, and those seeking bold liberal ideas went for Sanders everywhere save Alabama (where, again, Biden won).
Despite divisions about the tone and tenor of their candidates’ approaches, Democrats were largely united in their opinions on key issues and policies. Health care topped voters’ issue list, with at least one-third in each state citing it as the most important issue facing the country. The economy and jobs was second in most of the Southern states (cited by roughly two-in-10 voters). Outside of the South, voters were more likely to mention climate change as their second-place concern (between 26 percent in California and 32 percent in Colorado).
On health care, more than eight-in-10 voters in each state favored a public option approach, while roughly two-thirds in each state backed a Sanders-style single payer plan.
Primary voters also broadly agreed on taxing the use of carbon-based fuels (support ranged between 62 percent in Alabama and 87 percent in Minnesota), marijuana legalization (72 percent in Virginia and Texas to 84 percent in Colorado), and reducing the criminal justice system’s focus on low-level offenses (78 percent in Alabama to 85 percent in Colorado).
Fully nine-in-10 primary voters in Colorado and California favored limiting the amount of money presidential candidates and campaigns could spend, while support for the idea was slightly lower in Texas (85 percent) and Alabama (78 percent).
Majorities of voters in each state would be satisfied if Biden, Sanders, or Warren were the eventual nominee. Overall satisfaction was slightly higher for Biden (ranging between 58 percent in Colorado and 81 percent in Alabama) than for Sanders (a low of 55 in Virginia and a high of 67 in California) or Warren (60 in Virginia to 71 in Colorado).
It was a different story for Bloomberg, as satisfaction ranged from a low of 39 (Colorado and Minnesota) to a high of 61 (Alabama). In five states, majorities would be dissatisfied if he captured the nomination.
Across all states, nearly half of Biden and Bloomberg voters would be dissatisfied with Sanders as the nominee, while roughly six-in-ten Sanders supporters would be dissatisfied with Biden. Majorities of Warren voters would be satisfied with either Biden or Sanders as the nominee.
Sanders’ voters’ dissatisfaction could be amplified by concerns about the fairness of the nomination process. While roughly two-thirds of Super Tuesday voters overall had confidence in the process, a majority of Sanders voters felt the process was unfair.
Roughly three-quarters of voters (or more) in each state said they would definitely support the Democratic candidate in November against Trump, with Minnesota voters showing the most party solidarity (84 percent).
In several key swing states, however, two-in-ten voters said their decision in November would depend on who won the Democratic nomination. Warren voters were the most likely to say they would support the Democrat regardless of who won; Sanders and Bloomberg supporters were the least likely. Still, at least three-quarters of each candidate’s supporters said they would back the eventual nominee no matter what.
Texas and California
The two largest prizes of the night – Texas and California – were a study in contrasts. Sanders was dominant throughout California, with Biden a distant second and both Bloomberg and Warren hovering around the 15 percent viability threshold for delegates. In Texas, on the other hand, Sanders and Biden were neck-and-neck, with Bloomberg lurking in third and Warren a distant fourth.
In California, Sanders led among most demographic groups, with the exception of moderates (with whom Biden led by 6 points), voters ages 45 and over (Biden +7 points) and black voters (Biden +12 points).
Sanders’ strongest groups in California – as they were across the country – were young voters, very liberal voters, and Latinos. He also won nearly four-in-ten voters without a college degree.
Biden’s strength with late-deciding voters helped him hold down Sanders’ delegate gains out of the Golden State.
Perhaps the most competitive – and consequential – battleground of the night was Texas, where Bloomberg played a major role. White voters split between the two leaders (27 percent for Biden and 25 for Sanders), while Bloomberg picked up 17 percent and Warren 13 percent. Sanders nearly doubled Biden’s support among Latinos, and Biden returned the favor by dominating among black Texans. Warren was unable to attract significant nonwhite support in the state.
Texans were much more likely to favor a public option approach to health care (87 percent) than single payer (63 percent) – and yet more felt Sanders would be best able to handle health care than Biden.
The Fox News Voter Analysis, conducted in partnership with The Associated Press, provides a comprehensive look at voting behavior, opinions and preferences as America votes. On Super Tuesday, surveys were conducted in Alabama, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The surveys were conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago the week before the primaries, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The survey is based on interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file. In California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, these probability sample results were supplemented by interviews with self-identified registered voters recruited from nonprobability online panels. The sample sizes for the surveys ranged from 1,168 (Alabama) to 3,976 (California), with margins of sampling error ranging between plus or minus 4.9 and 3.0 percentage points. Full methodology statement here: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/fox-news-2020-voter-analysis-full-methodology-statement