Exit polls say a lot, even if they don't reflect the final vote counts.
On Super Tuesday, pollsters will be asking primary voters about who they voted for and why they voted. According to The Washington Post, the results of these polls are heavily guarded until polls close. Once polls have closed, that data, in addition to some actual vote counts, may be used to predict a winner.
Exit polls also provide important demographic information, providing further insight into a candidate's base of support. Super Tuesday exit polls this year could signal whether Mitt Romney has made inroads with more conservative Republican voters, for example, or whether blue-collar voters will support him.
Check back here for exit poll updates as they are released.
Santorum Could Win Ohio And North Dakota
ANOTHER SANTORUM WIN? 73% reporting from North Dakota - Santorum 39, Paul 28, Romney 25, Gingrich 8— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 7, 2012
56% reporting from Ohio and the Santorum lead has now shrunk to under 12,000 votes— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 7, 2012
Santorum Wins Ohio Independents
Former Sen. Rick Santorum has been largely viewed as one of the conservative alternatives to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney. The argument has been that Romney's business experience and moderate tone could attract independents and swing voters in the general election against President Barack Obama.
But Super Tuesday, exit polls show independents went for Santorum in Ohio. Santorum attracted 35 percent of independents, compared with Romney's 31 percent.
-- Jason Cherkis
Santorum Hurting In Rural Ohio
Horrible returns from Pike Co. Ohio for Santorum.. Culturally southern area gave Huck 42% in 08. Santorum up 5 with 40% of the vote - 42% in— Election Nate (@electionate) March 7, 2012
Via the New York Times: Ohio Demographics Based On Edison Research Exit Polls
Incredibly useful: How different demographic groups voted in Ohio. nyti.ms/AoW0tv— Jim Roberts (@nytjim) March 7, 2012
Exit Polls Show College Grads Support Santorum In Tennessee
Rick Santorum stirred controversy when he called President Barack Obama a snob for wanting Americans to go to college. Apparently that comment had little impact among college-educated voters in Tennessee. Exit polls show that Santorum attracted more college graduates then former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Santorum also dominated among non-college graduates. Among those who never attended college, exit polls show that they apparently chose Santorum over Romney 37 percent to 24 percent.
-- Jason Cherkis
Big Chunk Of Voters Say Abortion Should Be Legal
The debate over women's health issues has consumed a good chunk of the discussion leading up to Super Tuesday, with the conventional wisdom holding that the GOP was hurting its own image.
Just how much damage has been done will never be entirely clear. But if the exit polls from Tuesday night are any indication, Republicans are treading on dangerous terrain, even within their own party.
Among voters in Tennessee, 28 percent of respondents said that they believed abortion should be legal.
Among voters in Oklahoma, 24 percent said abortion should be legal.
Among voters in Ohio, 31 percent said abortion should be legal.
Both Tennessee and Ohio are open primaries, meaning that Democrats and independents can vote. But, by and large, the people answering these exit poll questions are self-identified Republicans. The fact that nearly a third of those who responded in Ohio (a state that the GOP has to have in November) said they believe in abortion rights, should be a fairly stark warning sign.
-- Sam Stein
Romney Wins Among Rich Folks In Tennessee
Mitt Romney prevailed among higher earners in Tennessee just like he did in Georgia, according to exit polls.
Thirty-two percent of people earning from $100,000 to $200,000 voted for Romney, compared with 31 percent for Rick Santorum. And 46 percent of Tennesseans earning more than $200,000 picked Romney, versus 29 percent for Santorum, who won a plurality among all lower income groups.
-- Arthur Delaney
Where In Oklahoma Romney Did Well
Rick Santorum won the conservative stronghold of Oklahoma Tuesday night, winning voters in nearly every category. Some areas where Mitt Romney did well:
- Can Defeat Obama: Romney won voters who said the most important quality in a candidate was the ability to beat President Barack Obama (43 percent).
- Economy: The economy was the top issue for Oklahoma voters, with 48 percent saying it was the most important issue. (The next-highest issue was the budget deficit, which 32 percent of voters cited.) Romney won voters who cited the economy, while Santorum won budget deficit and abortion voters.
- Religion Not Important: As in other states, Romney again won voters who said a candidate's religion is not important. Thirty-one percent of voters who said religious beliefs mattered "not much" or "not at all" went to Romney. Those who said they mattered a "great deal" or "somewhat' went to Santorum.
-- Amanda Terkel
Exit Polls Show Tight Ohio Race
new exit poll shows Romney 38 Santorum 36.5 in Ohio— Election Nate (@electionate) March 7, 2012
Exit Polls Show Romney Leading In Vermont
Paul Wins Late-Deciding Voters In Virginia
Mitt Romney cruised to a win in the Virginia primary, but CNN's exit polls show that he still had problems capturing undecided voters. Among Virginians who made their choice on primary day, Ron Paul won 53 percent of the vote. He also captured a majority of those who chose a candidate "in the last few days," beating Romney 51-49.
-- Max J. Rosenthal
Paul's Supporters Unsure They'll Back GOP Nominee
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is unlikely to win the Republican nomination. But that doesn't mean he won't potentially have an outsized impact on the general election.
A remaining question is whether Paul's quirky group of followers will vote for the Republican nominee over President Barack Obama. They could sit out the election, write in Paul's name or even vote for Obama (a scenario Republicans certainly don't want).
The Georgia exit polls from Tuesday show that Paul's backers were the least likely to say they would "definitely" back the GOP nominee in November -- just 3 percent said so, compared with 47 percent of Gingrich's supporters, 29 percent of Romney's and 20 percent of Santorum's.
Sixteen percent of Paul's supporters said they would "probably" back the GOP nominee -- more than Romney's supporters (16 percent) and Santorum's (20 percent).
-- Amanda Terkel
From the AP: Gingirich's Ties To Georgia Propelled Him To Victory
WASHINGTON — An exit poll of voters in the Georgia Republican presidential primary shows the victory there by Newt Gingrich, who represented the state in Congress for two decades, was propelled by people saying the former speaker's ties to the state were important.
Gingrich was winning around three-fourths of the votes of Georgia Republicans saying his relationship to the state affected their vote, according to early results from the survey.
Around 6 in 10 said that mattered little to them, and those voters were divided roughly evenly among Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
In Vermont, Romney was doing strongly among rank-and-file Republicans. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was doing well among the 4 in 10 independent voters.
In Virginia, where only Romney and Paul were on the ballot, Romney was doing strongly across most categories of voters.
In Ohio, Republicans were overwhelmingly upset with the federal government and deeply worried about the direction of the national economy, according to preliminary exit poll figures.
Of the 10 states holding Super Tuesday Republican presidential contests, Ohio was seen as the day's key battleground because it stood as one of the best chances that former Pennsylvania Sen Rick Santorum had in a major state of slowing Mitt Romney's drive toward the GOP nomination. Ohio is historically crucial for GOP chances of capturing the White House.
Nearly 9 in 10 Ohio Republicans said they were dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, including almost 4 in 10 who said they were very unhappy about it.
In addition, practically every Ohio GOP voter said he or she is nervous about where the nation's economy seems headed over the next few years, including about three-quarters who said they are very worried.
While almost two-thirds of the state's voters said they are conservative, more said their views are conservative on fiscal issues like taxes than on social issues such as abortion.
Exit polls were conducted in seven of the 10 states voting Tuesday, sampling groups of GOP voters ranging from the most moderate in Vermont and Massachusetts to the most conservative and religious in Oklahoma and Tennessee.
On two subjects, voters in each of the states voting Tuesday had the same view.
Given a choice of four issues, Republicans in every state named the economy as the one that most concerns them. Given four qualities to look for in a candidate, the one cited most often was an ability to defeat President Barack Obama in November's general election.
Seven in 10 Tennessee voters consider themselves to be born-again or evangelical Christians, more than any state surveyed so far in this year's GOP presidential voting. About three-fourths of Tennessee voters said it was very important that a candidate share their religious beliefs.
Of the state's voting Tuesday, Massachusetts had the smallest share of born-again or evangelical voters, fewer than 1 in 5.
In Virginia, where only Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were on Tuesday's ballot, about 1 in 3 voters said they would have supported a different candidate if others had also been listed.
Only in Georgia and Oklahoma did a majority say Tuesday that they voted for their candidate because they strongly supported him. In the other five states, most voters said they had reservations about their contender or voted for him because they disliked the other choices.
The Georgia survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters left 30 selected polling places in the state. The Georgia poll involved interviews with 1,705 voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Edison Research also conducted interviews at randomly chosen polling places in Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
AP News survey specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
Romney Leads All Regions In Virginia, Exit Polls Say
Networks are holding off on calling Virginia, but the exit polls suggest good news for Mitt Romney. Romney leads in all five regions of the state broken down by the exit poll, and in four of the five regions he leads by more than 60 percent.
This suggests Romney has a chance of winning each congressional district in the state. Delegate counts in Virginia are partially determined by the winners of the congressional districts, so winning the state, plus each district, could give Romney a sweep of delegates in the state. Paul's strongest performance was in the Richmond area/Eastern Virginia, where he received 44 percent of the vote, according to the exit polls.
-- Emily Swanson
Romney Wins Voters Who Don't Care About Candidates' Religion
Exit polls from the Georgia primary show that Gingrich won half of voters who identified themselves as white evangelical or born-again. Rick Santorum won 24 percent and Romney won 19 percent.
Gingrich -- a former congressman from Georgia who easily won the state's primary on Tuesday -- won voters who said that candidates' religious beliefs matter "a great deal," "somewhat" and "not much." Romney, however, won 43 percent of voters who said that religious beliefs did not matter at all.
Thirteen percent of the voters in today's primary identified themselves as Catholic. Romney won in that group, though Santorum is Catholic. Romney is Mormon.
Romney faced similar results in Arizona, also faring poorly among GOP voters who said that the religion of a candidate was very important. There, according to exit polls, Santorum won among voters who said that the religious beliefs of candidates mattered a "great deal." Romney, however, won among voters who said religious beliefs of candidates mattered "somewhat," "not much" or "not at all."
-- Amanda Terkel
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