Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had a resounding victory in the West Virginia primary, but exit polling suggests that nearly half of his voters would sooner give their support to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the general election.
On May 10, Sanders won West Virginia by a substantial 51.4 percent of the raw vote while his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, only won 35.8 percent. The Vermont senator picked up 18 pledged delegates while Clinton won 11.
Exit polling from the West Virginia Democratic primary revealed that 44 percent of the Sanders voters would choose Trump over him in the November election, according to CBS News.
This number may sound surprising, but other exit polling data reveals that West Virginia voters have skewed heavily conservative, even among Democrats, based on the state’s economic hardships.
Of the Democratic primary voters in the state, 36 percent are actually independents. Because West Virginia is an open primary, they were allowed to cast their vote for Sanders even if they will not be predisposed to vote for a Democrat come November.
According to preliminary exit polling, six in 10 of West Virginia voters in the Democratic primary were concerned about the direction of the economy. An equal number agreed that the economy and job growth were their primary issue, ABC News reports.
These large majorities are in contrast to other Democrats across the country; they more closely mirror how Republican voters have answered exit polls.
Also, nearly two thirds believe that international trade deals had hurt the U.S. economy and driven down job growth, which is a campaign issue stressed by both Sanders and Trump.
Three in 10 West Virginia Democratic primary voters cited that there was a coal industry worker in their household. One of the most important industries to the state, coal jobs dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2015. These voters overwhelmingly sided with Sanders over Clinton, despite the Vermont senator also being anti-coal.
Finally, only 26 percent of Democratic voters in West Virginia want to see the next president continue President Barrack Obama’s policies. Furthermore, 40 percent want less liberal policies.
Despite having been a historically Democratic-leaning state, West Virginia has become firmly conservative in the past decade. The state is also known for being one of the most hostile toward President Obama.
In the 2012 Democratic primary, when Obama was largely unchallenged nationally, 41 percent of West Virginia voters actually cast their ballot for perennial candidate Keith Judd, despite the fact that he was still serving a 17 and-a-half-year federal prison sentence at the time, according to the Washington Post.