The closely-divided electorate in Michigan on Tuesday was much more moderate than voters in Arizona, but both groups casting ballots in Republican primaries had similar views of what they were looking for in the winner.
Roughly a third of the voters surveyed in exit polls in both states said they most wanted a GOP candidate who could beat President Obama in November; an identical 17 percent of voters in both states said they were primarily seeking a true conservative.
Among the findings in Michigan on Tuesday:
- The Michigan electorate is more moderate than most of the early voting states: 39 percent of voters describe themselves as moderate or liberal. But that is actually down from the 2008 primary, when 44 percent of voters said they were moderate or liberal.
- Though the percentage of moderates and liberals was down slightly, the percentage of voters who identify as Republicans also slipped, from 68 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2012.
- Thirty-two percent of voters said the top quality they were seeking in a candidate was the ability to defeat Obama in the general election, ahead of strong moral character (25 percent), right experience (21 percent), or a true conservative (17 percent). That is more in line with Iowa and New Hampshire, but significantly lower than in Florida and South Carolina, where 45 percent of voters prioritized electability.
- The 2012 electorate in Michigan was more affluent than the 2008 electorate. A third of voters on Tuesday said they made $100,000 a year or more, compared to only 22 percent of voters who were at that income level in 2008.
- The electorate was also slightly older on Tuesday than on Election Day in 2008, with a quarter of voters aged 65 and older, up from 16 percent in 2008.
- Republican primary voters are split on the federal government's aid to U.S. automakers: 51 percent opposed that aid, while 44 percent approved. But there was little difference in the vote between the two blocs of voters.
The electorate in Arizona, meanwhile, was significantly more conservative than Michigan's pool of voters:
- Nearly three-fourths of Arizona primary voters identified as conservative, slightly higher than the 66 percent in 2008 who said they were conservative. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they were very conservative, up from 30 percent in 2008.
- Thirty-eight percent of Arizona voters said their top priority was choosing a candidate who could beat Obama, compared to 22 percent who were seeking the candidate with the right experience, 20 percent who wanted strong moral character, and 17 percent who are looking for the true conservative.
- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won an ugly GOP primary in 2010 for his Senate seat, and Arizona Republicans remain lukewarm on their party's 2008 standard-bearer. Fifty-three percent of primary voters on Tuesday said they had a favorable opinion of McCain, and 40 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.
- There has been some movement among Arizona Republican primary voters on the issue of immigration: Asked how the U.S. should handle illegal immigrants, 33 percent said they should be allowed to apply for citizenship, 28 percent said they should stay as temporary workers, and 34 percent said they should be deported. In 2008, 44 percent of primary voters said illegal immigrants should be deported, while only 24 percent favored a path to citizenship. But just 13 percent of voters said illegal immigration was their top issue on Tuesday, down from 31 percent in 2008.
Edison Research on Tuesday surveyed 2,133 voters in Michigan and 2,535 voters in Arizona for the National Election Pool, a consortium of news organizations.