- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Oklahoma Republican primary on Tuesday with the support of conservative and deeply religious voters who said he shares their values, according to exit poll interviews with those leaving their polling places. Cruz also won the support of voters who say government spending is the most important issue facing the nation.

Democrats chose Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won almost three-fourths of the vote among those under age 44, and 7 in 10 of those who say they want a presidential candidate who cares about people like them.

Republican voters were deeply unhappy with how the federal government is working and half said they wanted a political outsider as the party’s nominee for president. More than half of those who said they wanted an outsider voted for billionaire businessman Donald Trump, but it wasn’t enough to offset Cruz’s overall support.

Democratic primary voters said the economy is the top issue facing the country, followed by health care and income inequality, according to results of the survey conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

A closer look at the attitudes of the electorate:

CANDIDATE QUALITIES

Republican primary voters say the top quality they’re looking for in a candidate is someone who shares their values. Cruz received the largest proportion of votes from those who said that was the most important quality. Three in 10 say the most important candidate quality is the ability to bring needed change, and more than one-third supported billionaire businessman Donald Trump, while 3 in 10 supported Cruz and 2 in 10 voted for Rubio.

Democratic voters say they want someone who is honest and trustworthy and cares about people like them, followed by someone with experience. Three fourths of those who care most about honesty and someone who cares about them voted for Sanders, while more than three-fourths of those who want an experienced candidate favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Just over 1 in 10 voters say a candidate’s ability to beat the Republican nominee is most important.

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VOTER DISCONTENT

Half of Republicans say they’re dissatisfied with the federal government and more than 4 in 10 said they’re angry. Of those who say they’re dissatisfied, about 3 in 10 voted for Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, while angry primary voters were split between Trump and Cruz as their top candidate.

Trump’s attempt to portray himself as a political outsider who would shake up the status quo appeared to resonate with Oklahoma Republicans. Of the 5 in 10 primary voters who said they want a candidate from outside the political establishment, Trump was supported by more than half. About 4 in 10 say they want someone with political experience, and split their votes between Rubio and Cruz.

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IMPORTANT ISSUES

The economy and government spending were each the top issues of almost a third of Republicans, followed by terrorism. Fewer than 1 in 10 said they cared most about immigration. An overwhelming majority of Republican voters - more than three-fourths - say they’re very worried about the economy, and of those, more than one-third voted for Cruz.

Four in 10 Democratic voters said the economy is the top issue facing the nation, while one-fifth said health care or income inequality. Fewer than 2 in 10 say terrorism is the top issue.

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RELIGION FACTOR

A large majority of Republican voters identified as born-again Christians, and Cruz fared well among that group. Of the three-quarters of voters who say they’re born-again Christians, almost 4 in 10 voted for Cruz, while more than 2 in 10 voted for Rubio and Trump.

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The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters left their polling places at 20 randomly selected sites in Oklahoma. Results include interviews with 821 Democratic primary voters and 938 Republican primary voters. The results have margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points for both Republican and Democratic primary voters.

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