Clinton vs. Trump: What Exit Polls Are Saying on Presidential Election Day

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump


Voters are looking for a president who is primarily a “strong leader,” according to the first exit poll today from Politico/Morning Consult.

However, does that describe Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Fox News found slightly more voters felt Clinton would make the best Commander-in-Chief in its exit polling:

However, Fox News said exit polling found that “late deciders” were divided right down the middle between the two candidates (matching a lot of the pre-election polling in battleground states):

Clinton 42%
Trump 42%
Johnson 8%
Stein 4%

Exit polling found that American voters care most about the economy; however, voters differed about which candidate they thought would handle it best. The demographics are interesting and probably helpful to Clinton: National exit polling data found that the percentage of white voters is slightly down, and that college-educated voters are up.

Meanwhile, a novel election turnout predicting site, and experts crunching Florida turnout figures, say there appears to be good news for Hillary Clinton in Florida, a must win state for Donald Trump.

exit polls

A lonely looking exit pollster for various national news networks at a polling place in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, on November 8. Turnout was up at the polling place in this key battleground state, election officials said.

Exit polls, of course, can be fraught with peril, but they do provide a barometer into what some voters are thinking as they walk out of polling places on Election Day. The organizations aren’t releasing specific data yet on which candidates voters selected; news organizations have been hotly criticized for reporting faulty exit polling data in the past. However, what voters are saying can provide some clues as to their mindset in the ballot box.

Some voters were taking all of the drama in stride.

The national exit poll – which the networks belong to – is part of a National Election Pool and is based on interviews with more than 15,000 voters by phone and in-person on Election Day. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

Here is a breakdown of the reporting about the exit polling on Election Day. The networks and other news organizations singled out different points:

Turnout & Demographics

The national exit poll found that Republican and Democratic turnout is about the same as 2012. The percentage of whites voting was slightly down, at about 70%, said ABC.

There was a “record level of turnout among college-educated voters” – driven by college-educated white women, a key demographic for Clinton, said ABC.

ABC News

ABC said the national exit poll found more people (51%) are upset about Trump’s treatment of women than Clinton’s emails. Almost one-fourth of voters made up their minds in the past month.

Most voters – 61% – think the nation is on the wrong track, according to ABC. Almost all – literally – of Trump supporters feel that way.

Most voters in the exit polling expressed economic angst. By far, most voters want immigrants to be given a path to citizenship.

Politico/Morning Consult

The exit polling from Politico/Morning Consult found that independents reported feeling more depressed and angry than Republicans and Democrats about the presidential election. Most voters overall just wanted the whole thing over.

The Morning Consult/POLITICO Exit Poll beat others to the punch with the first glimpse into what voters were thinking on November 8.

The poll found the following breakdown when voters were asked which characteristic was most important to them in the new president:

Strong leader: 36 percent
A vision for the future: 29 percent
Someone who cares about people like me: 16%
Someone who shares my values: 16%

Politico said that twice as many voters chose strong leader in 2016 as 2012, and the site characterized this as good news for Republican nominee Donald Trump, but of course the definition of “strong leader” can be in the eye of the beholder. The site did not release results on specific candidate choices.

Fox News

Fox News said that exit polling shows white voters are likely a slightly smaller percentage of the overall vote this election. They also found that Hispanics were voting 65% for Clinton and 27% for Trump.

When voters were asked whom they voted for if they disliked both candidates, they said:

Trump 45%
Clinton 27%
Johnson 18%
Stein 5%

The Fox News exit poll found that 52% of voters feel the war against ISIS is going badly and 45% think Obamacare “went too far.”

Six in 10 voters told Fox News they were bothered by Clinton’s email controversy.

However, as noted, that was less than the percentage of people upset about Trump and women.


Just after 5 p.m. EST, CNN released some details from the exit polls with voters. CNN found that there were few late deciders, and 88% of voters decided in October or earlier.

Thirty-eight percent said the number one quality they want in a president is someone who “can bring change.” However, 22% want “right experience” and “good judgment,” which CNN noted adds up to more together than bringing change does.

CNN said not a lot of people were looking for an “empathetic” candidate.

Most voters said they aren’t excited about either candidate, CNN said. CNN found that voters care most about the economy, but were split on which candidate they thought would handle it better.


MSNBC reported that voters viewed Donald Trump more unfavorably than Hillary Clinton.

NBC found positive news for Clinton when it comes to the issues that voters care about. About half of voters said the economy was their top issue, and, when asked who would handle that issue better, “Clinton holds a solid lead.”

Terrorism was next. Immigration was on the list but not tops; Trump did best with those who picked those two issues.

Voters told exit pollsters that they don’t think either candidate is honest, but 64% find Trump dishonest compared to 59% for Clinton, said NBC.

VoteCastr Predictions

However, Slate Magazine does have what it calls an “unprecedented election experiment” in which an organization called VoteCastr has been projecting real-time turnout results throughout the day today with the help of Republican and Democratic data experts.

You can see its data here. The VoteCastr models are predicting victories for Clinton in Florida and Ohio, as of 5 p.m. EST, which would be decisive if it holds true, based on turnout data. Of course, it’s unclear how many Democrats or Republicans will cross over for other candidates or vote third party. One caution: The site is also finding Clinton up in every one of the seven states it is monitoring, including states where Trump was doing better than Clinton in the polls (like Ohio).

The New York Times said the VoteCastr model represents a deviation from standard practice in which news organizations typically wait to report the most specific exit polling data until polls close across the country. The Times said exit polling predictions have been criticized in western states in past elections when voters were seen leaving lines after early calls by networks. In 2000, exit poll predictions were criticized when networks infamously called the race in Florida for Al Gore.

There’s also the anecdotal stuff, like this from pollster Frank Luntz:

Early Election Day Florida Turnout Data

There is evidence out of Florida that turnout might be shattering 2012 in largely Democratic counties, which would be potentially huge for Clinton depending on what happens with turnout in Republican areas of the state. Florida is one of the battleground states that Trump can not afford to lose.

Keep this in mind when assessing Florida turnout data:

Tom Bonier, a veteran pollster, has been crunching the data:

Jamie Dupree is a reporter for Cox Radio, covering Congress, DC and the elections for WSB Atlanta, WDBO Orlando, WOKV Jacksonville, WHIO Dayton & KRMG Tulsa. On Twitter, he said he is also finding higher turnout in some GOP areas than 2012 too.

He’s been posting a slew of turnout figures from Florida.

One story out of Florida: As with some other states, there was a surge in Hispanic turnout in early voting, although overall Democrats were under their early voting turnout pace. However, Hispanics make up a higher percentage of Florida independents, and there was record turnout in Democratic strongholds, said The Huffington Post.

But he – and the pollster, Tom Bonier – are finding a lot of good news for Democrats.

Election Predictions Based on Polls

Sites that predict the election based on past presidential polls (which are unable to factor in actual turnout) are still overwhelmingly predicting that Clinton will win the electoral college. As polls tightened across a series of battleground states in the past week, Trump’s chances to win the presidency grew, but he still faces a tougher math than she does.

When will the networks project winners?

News outlets are nervous about reporting exit polling data that predicts the election’s outcome before it’s actually over. In some locales, the exit pollster merely sets up a table outside a polling place and waits for voters to choose to participate. That could lead to a skewing of the results in many different ways. In Wisconsin, such a survey (sponsored by various networks) queried voters on their candidate choices as well as how they felt about a host of issues, ranging from immigration to health care. The networks generally release those exit polls later in the day so as not to interfere with the election.

There are some actual election results already in. Three hamlets in New Hampshire voted right after midnight. They’re more novelties than anything, of course. The tally showed Donald Trump winning by a grand total of 7 votes. More interesting perhaps was the fact that Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, and Mitt Romney all received write-in votes.

Then there was the 2004 exit polling that predicted President John Kerry.

Networks are also doing analysis based on early voting patterns. For example, CNN says North Carolina trends are looking good for Trump. Early voting patterns have shown a mixed bag, with some trends looking good for Trump (in places like Florida, Ohio, Iowa), and others looking good for Clinton in places like Wisconsin, Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado as Hispanic turnout surges.

Here is one site where you can monitor actual election returns as they come in.

Watch all the election day coverage and results in Spanish at

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