POLL-Late-deciding voters largely supporting Biden over Sanders -Edison Research

(Updates with latest poll data)

By Chris Kahn

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - As many as half the voters taking part in Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries said they made up their minds in the last few days, and the lion's share of those late deciders backed Joe Biden, according to Edison Research exit polling.

The results reflected how Biden, who recovered from poor showings in the first two nominating contests, was benefiting from his dominant win in Saturday's South Carolina primary and the endorsements he picked up from Senator Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, who both dropped out of the race in recent days.

Edison, which compiles voter polls and live election results for media organizations including ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NBC News and Reuters, found that late deciders ranged from five out of 10 voters in Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Massachusetts, to two out of 10 in Texas and California.

In almost every case, those late deciders broke at least 2-to-1 in favor of Biden, a former vice president, over Senator Bernie Sanders, who leads among Democrats in national opinion polls.

In the case of Klobuchar's home state of Minnesota, a little more than half of voters said they made up their minds in the "last few days," and about half of them went for Biden, while fewer than two of 10 supported Sanders.

Here are other highlights from the poll, which was based on interviews with people who voted on Tuesday in 12 of the 14 Super Tuesday states, including Texas, California, Massachusetts and Virginia. The proportions may change as more polling is conducted and votes are tallied:

** A large majority of Democratic primary voters said they would support the party's nominee regardless of who it is, including nine out of 10 primary voters in California and eight of 10 in Virginia, Massachusetts in North Carolina.

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** Voters in five of the bigger states holding primaries on Tuesday said the coronavirus outbreak was a factor in their decision. The political and economic crisis over the outbreak, which has infected some 90,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,000, is escalating.

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** Less than two of 10 voters in the Super Tuesday primaries are first-time primary voters.

** Super Tuesday voters named healthcare as their top issue, and more than half support a government-run single-payer system championed by Sanders.

** At least seven out of 10 voters in California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee said the recent coronavirus was a factor in their decision. Those were the only states in which the question was put to voters.

** Edison polled voters in 12 of the 14 states holding primaries on Tuesday. It did not conduct exit polls in Arkansas and Utah. (Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney)

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