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March 10 exit polls: Biden rises with broad coalition, desire to defeat Trump

The former vice president won in several key states with support from black voters, women and those motivated to win in November.
Image: Michigan vote
A woman places her ballot in the tabulation machine for the Michigan primary at Lewis E. Marie Elementary School in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden rolled up victories in several states Tuesday night with the support of a broad coalition of Democratic primary voters, many of whom said they were motivated by a desire to choose a presidential nominee who could defeat President Donald Trump in November.

A majority of Democratic voters casting ballots across four states said choosing a candidate who they believe can win is more important than choosing one who agrees with them on major issues, NBC News exit polls show.

Majorities of voters in exit polls from Washington, Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi all supported that position, including 51 percent in Mississippi and 68 percent in Washington.

Supporters of Biden across the four states were far more likely to agree with that sentiment — 70 percent of Biden supporters prioritized nominating the candidate they believe could beat Trump, while 47 percent of those supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said they felt the same.

A slim majority of Sanders supporters, 51 percent, said they thought it was more important to nominate a candidate who agrees with them.

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Democratic primary voters in Washington state were angriest at Trump, according to the exit polls. Eighty-two percent of Washington Democratic primary voters said they feel angry at the Trump administration, compared to 68 percent in Missouri, 60 percent in Michigan and 43 percent in Mississippi.

Biden and Sanders faced off in six states Tuesday — those above, as well as Idaho and North Dakota. NBC News' Decision Desk projected that Biden will win Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and Michigan as of late Tuesday evening.

In Mississippi, black voters made up 69 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, and Biden won overwhelmingly with them, picking up 87 percent of the black vote. Mississippi has had the highest share of black voters in any state that has voted this year, including South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia, according to exit polling.

In Missouri, Biden appears to have won with a broad coalition — 85 percent of those who say they want a nominee who can unite the country, 72 percent of black voters, 74 percent of those at least 45 years old and 70 percent of those who say they want a nominee who can defeat Trump.

In Michigan, he relied on a similar coalition, winning about two-thirds of black voters, older voters, moderate and conservative voters, as well as those who decided this month.

In Washington, Biden led among women, with 36 percent to Sanders' 27 percent, while Sanders led among men, with 41 percent to Biden's 28 percent.

And exit poll data from Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington showed Biden winning with white, college-educated women, significantly improving his share from previous contests. He won 48 percent of those Democratic primary voters Tuesday, up from 30 percent earlier. Sanders saw his share increase, as well, but by a smaller margin, from 21 percent in previous contests primaries to 28 percent Tuesday.

White, college-educated women were a key part of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's coalition before she ended her candidacy last week.

How Joe Biden won Michigan

March 11, 202003:07

Biden also bested Sanders among union voters in both Michigan and Missouri, two states where union-affiliated voters make up a significant part of the electorate.

Across Michigan, Washington and Missouri, 42 percent of Democratic voters said they would be satisfied if either Biden or Sanders won the nomination. But a significant proportion said they would be happy only if one candidate won the nomination — 30 percent said they'd be satisfied only if Biden wins, while 20 percent said the same about Sanders.

In Michigan, 50 percent of voters said they'd trust Biden the most of the Democratic field to handle a major crisis, with 31 percent choosing Sanders. Biden had a double-digit edge over Sanders on the same question among Democratic voters in Washington and Missouri, as well.

Tuesday night's exit polls show other interesting preferences of Democratic primary voters.

In Washington, 81 percent said they are concerned about the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit the state harder than most others. Older voters were more likely to say they were very concerned than younger voters — 45 percent of voters ages 45 or older said they're very concerned about the virus, compared to 19 percent of those younger than 45.