Donald Trump's Support Had Almost Nothing To Do With Ideology

He fared equally well among New Hampshire's moderates and staunch conservatives.

Donald Trump's win in the New Hampshire GOP primary Tuesday night highlights a peculiarity of his support: His base is all over the map.

Although Iowa's winner, Ted Cruz, found success by appealing disproportionately to the state's most conservative voters, Trump's support shows no regard for ideological lines.

Exit polls in New Hampshire showed Trump winning among voters who described themselves as very conservative, somewhat conservative or moderate by about equal margins.

Exit polls via CBS News

That's a shift from Iowa, where fewer conservative voters were up for grabs, but it lines up with many national polls.

“Trump has transcended all of this and it has surprised many of us, because these have always been ideological fights,” Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign, told The Atlantic in January. “But the frustration and the anger at Washington has overshadowed a lot of ideology.”

The most prominent fault line in Trump's support is education. He performed 23 percentage points better among voters with a high school education or less than he did among those who studied beyond a college degree.

Exit polls via CBS News

There are other reasons to suspect the model of a GOP primary divided neatly into "conservative" and "moderate" lanes is an oversimplification. In a January survey asking voters to rate themselves on a scale between "very liberal" and "very conservative," Republicans on average ranked Trump as only slightly more liberal than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) or retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson -- or themselves.

Trump himself also defies easy ideological description. He tacks to the xenophobic right on foreign policy and immigration, while simultaneously breaking with the GOP orthodoxy on issues like economics. His supporters have mostly come along for the ride.

"Trump meets the textbook definition of an ideological moderate," political scientists Doug Ahler and David Broockman wrote in December, noting that "people who appear 'moderate' on a left-right ideological spectrum often have extreme views on individual issues. … [W]e should not confuse moderation in the general ideological sense with moderation on actual issues."

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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