This Statistic From Last Night's Primary Is Really Confusing People

May 11th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The voters who helped Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders secure a win in the West Virginia primary on Tuesday have mixed opinions about how liberal the next president should be, and there's a debate over what that means.


CNN exit polling of Democratic voters shows that, of the 41-percent of survey respondents who wanted the next president to be less liberal, a slight majority supported Sanders. However, a considerable majority of the voters who wanted the next president to be more liberal supported Sanders too.

CNN Stat

Twitter was quick to take notice of those numbers.

While some pundits, such as Vox's Matt Yglesias, suggested that this poll reflects voters' confusion over the candidate's political positions, it can also be argued that the divide among Sanders' supporters reflects a desire for any sort of change.

Writer Freddie deBoer pushed back against Yglesias' interpretation of the exit poll on Twitter.


According to exiting polling, Sanders supporters also show what appears to be a clear disdain for the status quo, as they made up only 30-percent of the voters who want the next president to continue President Barack Obama's policies. Further, of the 33-percent of Democratic voters who said they would break rank and vote for Republican Donald Trump, a majority were Sanders supporters.

Bernie Trump CNN

Economic concerns are probably motivating this desire for change.

Nearly two thirds of West Virginia Democrats said they were "very worried" about the economy.

Economy worries / CNN


Dr. John Deskins, the director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, said voters' desire for change makes sense in light of the state's economic conditions.

I think that is reasonable to a large extent. West Virginia has suffered a lot. West Virginia's economy is very sour — especially in certain parts of the state our economy is very, very weak and we have daunting challenges. So it's understandable that, in that context, many people want change and I think it's fair to say Bernie Sanders is noticeably different than many other candidates that we've seen over the last few decades. He certainly seems to represent something different. — Dr. John Jenkins.


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