- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Ted Cruz fought off Donald Trump on his home turf behind the support of hardline conservatives and white evangelicals in Texas, according to an exit poll survey of primary voters Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton got a big boost from minorities in a resounding victory in the delegate-rich state, where nearly half of Democratic voters believe the next president should generally continue the policies of President Barack Obama.

Here are voters’ views of Tuesday’s elections, according to results of an exit poll conducted in Texas for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research:

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ECONOMIC WORRIES DRIVE BOTH PARTIES TO POLLS

The economy was the biggest issue of 2016 among primary goers in both parties. Democrats who picked the economy as their biggest concern backed Clinton by a 2-to-1 margin over Sanders, while Republicans who cited the economy preferred Cruz and Trump in roughly equal numbers.

Government spending and terrorism were the next biggest issues among Republicans, with immigration lagging as a key concern in Texas. That’s despite the outsize attention Trump has given the issue and state Republican leaders making get-tough border security proposals a perennial priority in the Legislature.

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REPUBLICANS BACK TRUMP’S CALL FOR BORDER WALL, MUSLIM BAN

Two of Trump’s most divisive proposals - banning Muslims from entering the country and extending the border wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border - had wide appeal among Republicans. Both ideas found support among more than two-thirds of GOP voters, although Republicans were roughly split on whether immigrants working in the country illegally should be deported or get a chance to apply for legal status.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims had been condemned by a number of challengers in both parties, although Cruz took a milder stance, expressing disagreement while refusing to criticize Trump. Voters who supported the ban on Muslims backed Cruz slightly more than Trump.

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SHARING VALUES, RELIGION IMPORTANT TO GOP VOTERS

Republican voters wanted a candidate who shared their values more than someone who could deliver change, “tells it like it is” or was seen as capable of beating the Democratic nominee in November. They were even more clear that sharing their religious values was important. Among the nearly 7 in 10 voters who felt that way, Cruz had a clear edge over Trump.

Cruz banked his campaign on getting the party’s most conservative voters to the polls, and he carried a 2-to-1 edge over Trump among the voters who called themselves “very conservative.” But Cruz had only a slight edge over Trump among the more 4 in 10 Republican primary voters who identified as “somewhat conservative.”

Republicans were also roughly split on whether they wanted a candidate with political experience or a nominee from outside the establishment.

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CLINTON CONTINUES DOMINATING WITH MINORITY VOTERS

Minorities made up more than half of Democratic primary voters, and they overwhelmingly backed Clinton nearly 3 to 1 as she continued resoundingly beating Sanders among blacks and Hispanics nationwide. Among white voters, however, Sanders and Clinton were roughly even in Texas.

Sanders carried women under 29 but older women broke decisiviely for Clinton, who had the support of 4 of 5 women over the age of 45.

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MINDS MADE UP

Most voters appeared to have had their minds made up for a while. On the Republican side, about 7 in 10 had already settled on a candidate before last week, and neither Trump, Cruz nor Rubio had a clear edge with later deciders.

Only about 2 in 10 Democrats appeared to make their choice within the last week, and Clinton won over the majority of those who did.

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The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research as voters left their polling places at 40 randomly selected sites in Texas. Preliminary results include interviews with 1,481 Democratic primary voters, including 225 absentee or early voters who were interviewed by phone before election day, and with 1,969 Republican primary voters, including 313 absentee or early voters interviewed by phone. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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