Why Trump lost

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Picture: Getty Images

Despite the record voter turnout that was supposed to catapult Donald Trump to victory in Iowa, the notoriously self-confident businessman was forced to modestly concede defeat to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a notable Monday-night caucuses upset.

Though Trump has bragged for months about his lead in public opinion surveys, there were no mentions of those Iowa numbers Monday night.

And for good reason: In key demographic areas in which Trump needed to expand his lead, he lost big to Cruz and even trailed a surprisingly strong Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Here’s how Trump’s loss played out, according to NBC’s exit polls.

As predicted, Trump performed best among voters with a high-school education or lower. But those voters only represented 16% of the electorate on Monday. Voters who had any education beyond high school — 84% of the electorate  — mostly broke for Rubio and Cruz over Trump.

Trump’s decision to skip last week’s Fox News debate, as well as his reportedly less-strong campaign organisation, also appeared to work against him.

Voters who made up their minds in the last week — almost half of the electorate — broke for Rubio and Cruz over Trump, though Trump maintained a lead with voters who made their decision earlier that that.

There was also a notable age gap.

Though Trump has been popular with younger Republican voters nationally, he lost by a significant margin among voters below the age of 49, who accounted for 32% of the Republican turnout Monday. He also fell several points short of Cruz among voters 50 and older.

Voters were also pondering Trump’s viability on in the general election. Among the 20% of voters who chose a candidate based on believing they could “win in November,” Rubio was the top pick by 20 points.

Finally, ideology and religion also may have worked against Trump.

The mogul performed best among self-identified “moderate” Republican voters, a vastly smaller share of caucus-goers than those who referred to themselves as conservative.

Of the 40% of voters who considered themselves “very conservative,” Cruz captured 44% of the vote, compared to Trump’s 21%. Rubio won among the 45% of voters who considered themselves “somewhat conservative,” netting 29% of that portion of the vote to Trump’s 24%.

And despite last-minute endorsements and appearances with major evangelical figures like Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, Trump also trailed among religious voters, who made up 62% of the GOP electorate on Monday. Cruz ran away with this group, beating Trump by 12 points.

Polling errors

Trump’s poll numbers in Iowa may have artificially inflated his advantage in the lead-up to the caucuses.

Princeton University professor and polling expert Sam Wang pointed to the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll, considered the “gold standard” of Iowa polls. He said it may have underrepresented the share of evangelical voters.

“Pollsters in the Iowa caucus have previously missed by a bit with Santorum, who like Cruz had a lot of evangelical support,” Wang said, referring to former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).

One slight bright spot for Trump was his performance with new caucus-goers. He captured 30% of first-time caucus-goers, seven points higher than Cruz.

And despite the bad night, polling analysts like Wang warned not to overstate Trump’s loss. Trump’s share was only slightly below expectations, and it doesn’t mean he is about to see a collapse in support. 

“It is premature to write off Trump,” Wang told Business Insider. 

Added University of Michigan pollster Michael Traugott: “I don’t think Trump is in trouble until the outcome in New Hampshire differs from the polls,” 

For his part, Trump spun Tuesday that he was happy with second place.

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