Across the South on Super Tuesday, Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump in two states and ran close to him elsewhere. A deep dive into the NBC News Exit Poll data reveals a key divide between the GOP voters supporting these two candidates. Put simply, Republicans who favor Cruz want a president who shares their values, while those voting for Trump just want change.
NBC News Exit Poll data indicate that across the region, about a third of voters on average said they wanted a president who shared their values. And from Cruz's home state of Texas—where he emerged the victor—to states delivering Trump big Super Tuesday victories including Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, the pattern was the same: If Republicans said it was most important that a presidential candidate share their values, they tended to prefer Cruz. The senator captured these "values voters" by overwhelming 30-point margins or more in all but two states, and he bested Trump in this group in every state in the South.
But among the roughly three in 10 GOP voters who said their most important priority in a candidate was someone who "can bring needed change," the story was just the opposite: They consistently chose Trump. The businessman won roughly half of these "change voters" in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, and he beat Cruz among this group in every state in the South with the exception of Texas, where he still managed to battle the home-state favorite to a draw.