New Georgia Data Gives Insight on Primaries, Polls and Possibly November

New Georgia Data Gives Insight on Primaries, Polls and Possibly November

The verdict from the presidential primaries is already in, but the best data on what they mean for the general election is only now beginning to arrive.

That data is vote history: a person-by-person record of who voted and who did not. It offers a definitive account of the makeup of the electorate, and it will help answer some of the most important questions of the primary season, from whether the Nikki Haley voters already back President Biden to whether the primary results suggest Mr. Biden is better positioned than the polls suggest.

Last week, we got the first big tranche of vote history data from a place where we’ve done a recent state poll: Georgia.

At least here, it suggests that most Haley voters already supported Mr. Biden in 2020. It also implies that Mr. Biden’s strength in the primaries is not inconsistent with polls showing him struggling among young and Black voters.

In the Republican primary in Georgia, Ms. Haley received 13.2 percent of the vote. That may not have been anywhere near enough to win, but it could easily be enough to be a big headache for Donald J. Trump if those are Republicans who have soured on the former president.

The vote history data offers a few clues suggesting that Mr. Trump doesn’t have much to worry about here — or at least nothing new to worry about. Most of these voters already backed Mr. Biden in the 2020 election and continue to back him in 2024.

There are two pieces of evidence to support this idea.

The first comes from the vote history data from previous partisan primaries in Georgia. That data shows that about 10 percent of voters in this month’s Republican primary had voted in a Democratic primary in the last eight years — a good indication that they may have been Democrats voting in a Republican contest. These voters probably backed Ms. Haley by a wide margin.

A second comes from our October Times/Siena survey of Georgia, which we matched to the new vote history records. Respondents who voted in the recent Republican presidential primary said they had voted for Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden by a margin of 82 percent to 12 percent in 2020, a tally similar to what these voters say they’ll do in November. Both tallies mirror Mr. Trump’s 85-13 victory in the Georgia primary.

The similarity between the Republican primary results and the poll responses of Republican primary voters suggest that most of Mr. Trump’s weakness in the primary simply came from those already inclined to back Mr. Biden in 2020 and 2024.

Among solid Republicans, Mr. Trump remains on stronger footing. He held a 94-2 polling lead over Mr. Biden among Republican primary voters who identified as Republicans in the Times/Siena survey. Similarly, he had a 91-3 lead among Republican primary voters who had not voted in a recent Democratic primary.

The Democratic primary has not been competitive this year, and Georgia was no exception. Overall, President Biden won 95 percent of the vote in Georgia, one of his best tallies anywhere in the country.

Not surprisingly, the Times/Siena poll last fall found no evidence of serious dissent among these voters: Mr. Biden had a 96-0 lead over Mr. Trump among Times/Siena respondents who went on to vote in the Democratic primary, four months later.

What’s interesting is that the Times/Siena poll found plenty of evidence of Democratic dissent among the broader group of registered voters. In the head-to-head polling matchup in Georgia in October, Mr. Trump led Mr. Biden by six points, including finding Mr. Biden at just 76-19 among Black voters overall. (In 2020, he won around 90 percent of the Black vote in Georgia.)

So why did Mr. Biden win a decisive victory when the polls showed him faring relatively poorly? The vote history data suggests the answer is simple: Those who voted in the Democratic primary and the broader group of registered voters are very different, with very different views of Mr. Biden.

Overall, just 4 percent of registered voters turned out in the Democratic primary. Nearly half were 65 and over; just 5 percent were under 30. It turns out that this old and highly engaged group of Democrats is very loyal to Mr. Biden.

This is particularly clear seeing Biden’s support among Black voters, who account for over one-fourth of the electorate in Georgia.

Remarkably, none of the Black voters who flirted with Mr. Trump in the October poll — those who said they would choose him in November 2024 — ended up voting in a primary, whether in the Republican primary or as Democratic dissenters. Mr. Biden led, 96-0, in the Times/Siena poll among self-identified Black voters who turned out in the March 12 primary, versus 74-21 among all other Black voters. Despite Mr. Trump’s support in the poll, only about 5 percent of Black primary voters decided to cast a ballot in the Republican primary, according to state voter records.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a big difference between primary voters and the rest of the electorate. In Times/Siena data, Mr. Biden is struggling badly among irregular young and nonwhite voters, helping to give Mr. Trump a narrow lead among registered voters nationwide. At the same time, Mr. Trump fares poorly among highly engaged voters, like those who vote in special elections.

Mr. Biden has major weaknesses in the polling, but his problems aren’t being put to the test in low-turnout primaries. The general election is when the irregular voters tend to show up, if they show up at all.


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