Sen. Bernie Sanders' West Virginia victory on Tuesday didn't do much to close the delegate gap between he and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but every win is important for the senator, who's been trailing behind his opponent for most of the primary season. But something pretty bizarre factored into his West Virginia win: a bunch of people who voted for him said they'd vote against him in November. Why would Sanders voters choose Donald Trump in the general election?
The Washington Post reported that nearly 40 percent of people who said they voted for Sanders in exit polls also said they would vote for Trump against Sanders in November. As if that weren't bizarre enough, CNN reported that half of voters who said they want a president less liberal than Obama voted for Sanders. What the hell happened in the Democratic primary?!
First, let's note that West Virginia has a mixed primary system. This means that voters who are registered as Democrats can only vote in the Democratic primary and vice versa for registered Republicans, but independents can vote in either. So, there may have been some right-leaning independents who decided to vote in the Democratic primary, since Trump is all but certainly the Republican nominee. CNN's exit poll reporting also shows that 49 percent of voters polled who identify as moderate or conservative voted for Sanders — an unusually high number for the liberal senator. These folks could actually be Trump supporters who think Sanders would be a weaker opponent for the businessman to confront in November (despite the fact that Sanders outperforms Clinton against Trump consistently in general election polls).
Of course, it could also be the case that some of these voters wanted to stack the Democratic side with the candidate they actually prefer, even if they plan on voting for Trump in November. Of the voters polled, 57 percent said the economy was their highest concern — more than in any other Democratic primary thus far, according to CBS — and that's the cornerstone of Sanders' campaign. For all the differences between Trump and Sanders (and I really can't emphasize enough how completely different they are in most respects), both candidates emphasize the importance of protecting American jobs, and voters who are very concerned about jobs could feasibly be into both Trump and Sanders.
Unfortunately for the curious and intrigued among us, the exit polls didn't include an essay section in which voters could divulge their motivations. We can only speculate as to why Trump supporters would vote for Sanders in the primaries. Whatever their reasoning, they helped Sanders win a much-needed victory in West Virginia.