Bernie Sanders won Indiana on Tuesday night in an upset that shocked pollsters, but not voters. The state saw one of its highest turnouts in years, which almost always indicates a win for the Vermont senator. CNN published exit polls of 1,324 voters, which proved one important truth: Independent voters love Bernie Sanders.
Of the votes cast, 22 percent of those were independent voters. It’s not a large number by any stretch, but a closer look shows how significant it is for Bernie Sanders.
Despite being the underdog by several points, Sanders managed to pull off a 5-point victory. As of 1 p.m. ET, the state had 99.9 percent of precincts reporting showing Sanders beating Clinton with 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.
Indeed, if the contest were decided only by independent voters, Sanders would have won the state in a landslide victory. When polled, 72 percent of unaffiliated voters said they cast their ballot for Bernie. More than 637,000 Democrats and independent voters came out to cast their ballot in the Democratic primary.
This is good news for the Sanders campaign as the primary heads into the last leg of the race. Several upcoming primaries in states have either open, semi-open, or semi-closed primaries, meaning more potential voters for Sanders than for Clinton. More importantly, independent voters now make up a majority of voters in the nation.
A recent Pew Research poll showed that nationwide, the number of people who identify as independents outnumber those who identify as either Democrat or Republican. The trend began in 2010 and has continued upward ever since. The Democratic Party is more hard-hit than the GOP, which has seen a modest upswing since 2015. Today, approximately 40 percent of voters call themselves independent voters, with only 30.4 percent identifying as Democrat.
Indiana had its share of issues, with closed polling locations, a plethora of unused voting booths, and long lines. IndyStar News reports that in some counties, signage was inadequate and voters were getting lost in schools that doubled as polling stations. Even with these problems, though, some counties with normally abysmal turnout had voters coming out in droves for this year’s election. And conventional wisdom is that when turnout is high, Bernie Sanders wins.
CNN’s exit polls also showed unsurprising statistics. Of those polled, 28 percent revealed that they are very liberal. Another 40 percent identified as somewhat liberal. In both cases, these voters preferred Bernie Sanders, while the moderate voters preferred Clinton by 54 percent.
The exit poll also asked voters about their gender and marital status. In four categories, Clinton won in just one: married women. Fifty-three percent of that demographic preferred Clinton. Married men preferred Sanders, but by a margin of just five percent. Conversely, unmarried men and women largely supported Sanders, with over 55 percent favoring for him in either category.
And another interesting category revealed just who Clinton’s supporters are in Indiana. Voters with incomes less than $30,000 per year preferred Clinton, while those in every other income demographic up to $200,000 per year favored Bernie Sanders.
Clinton continues to dominate in demographics that include black voters, and those who are over the age of 45, while Sanders dominates among young, white voters, and those who identify as independent.
So, what does this mean for Sanders in upcoming states and territories? It means Clinton will likely win Puerto Rico. She may win the closed primary states of Kentucky, Connecticut, and New Jersey, although recent polls make a Sanders win well within reach.
What the Indiana statistics show is that Bernie Sanders has the momentum to make a good showing in California. And if he beats expectations in upcoming primaries and continues to attract more independent voters, he will have the leverage he needs for a contested convention in July.
[Photo by John Minchillo/AP Images]