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Exit poll: Ted Cruz wins on Donald Trump fear; Bernie Sanders on excitement

UPDATED: Tue., April 5, 2016

Abi Nesbitt, a UW-Eau Claire freshman from Mosinee, Wis., votes in her first primary election at UW-Eau Claire’s Davies Center on Tuesday morning, April 5, 2016. (Dan Reiland / The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP)
Abi Nesbitt, a UW-Eau Claire freshman from Mosinee, Wis., votes in her first primary election at UW-Eau Claire’s Davies Center on Tuesday morning, April 5, 2016. (Dan Reiland / The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP)
By Emily Swanson Associated Press

WASHINGTON – In Wisconsin, Democrats went with the candidate who excited them the most, and Republicans chose the candidate who wasn’t Donald Trump.

As Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the state’s GOP primary, exit polls show his victory appeared to be driven more by fear of Trump than excitement about Cruz. In fact, a majority of Wisconsin Republican voters say they’re either concerned or scared of a potential Trump presidency.

On the Democratic side, voters chose Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who they saw as the more exciting, inspiring and honest candidate, according to early results of exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.

But even then, more voters view former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the candidate most likely to beat Trump, who has been the Republican front-runner throughout the primaries.

Other highlights from the exit polls:

Scared or concerned

A majority of Republican voters say they’re either concerned or scared of a potential Trump presidency, exit polls show. Nearly 4 in 10 say they’re scared about what Trump would do as president, and about 2 in 10 say they’re concerned.

At the same time, though, about a quarter of Wisconsin GOP primary voters say they’re excited about Trump, while less than 15 percent say that of either Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

But the exit poll shows Republicans could face a challenge in uniting their party whether Trump or Cruz emerges as the eventual nominee. A third of Wisconsin GOP voters say that if Trump and Clinton are the nominees they’d vote for a third party candidate, stay home or even vote for Clinton. Three in ten say that of a Cruz versus Clinton matchup.

Excitement, realistic, honest

About 7 in 10 Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin said they are excited or optimistic about what either candidate would do in office, but they’re more likely to be excited about Sanders. About a third say they’re excited about what he would do, while about half as many say that about Clinton.

Nearly 60 percent say Sanders inspires them more about the future of the country. But more than half also say Clinton is the candidate best suited to beat Trump. Three-quarters say Clinton has realistic policies, more than the two-thirds who say that of Sanders.

Democratic voters were more likely to describe Sanders than Clinton as honest. About nine in 10 say so of Sanders, while about 6 in 10 say so of Clinton.

Contested convention

When it comes to a contested Republican convention, more than half of Republicans say the party should nominate the candidate with the most support in the primaries, which so far would be Trump. About 4 in 10 say it should nominate the candidate the delegates think would make the best nominee.

Even among voters who favored Cruz, 4 in 10 said the candidate with the most support going into the convention should be the party’s nominee.

Trade and jobs

Democratic voters in Wisconsin are divided on the effect of trade on unemployment, but among those who think trade takes jobs, 6 in 10 supported Sanders.

About 4 in 10 Democratic voters say trade with other countries takes away jobs in this country, while 4 in 10 see trade as beneficial, exit polls show. Only about 1 in 10 sees trade as having no effect on jobs in the United States.

The polls indicate a mixed response on an issue that Sanders has put at the center of his television ads. In the ads, he’s connected job losses with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Clinton initially supported but has since said she opposes.


Young voters supported Sanders by an overwhelming margin. More than 6 in 10 men voted for Sanders, while women split about evenly between the two candidates.

Six in 10 white voters went for Sanders, while 7 in 10 black voters voted for Clinton. Self-described Democrats split about evenly between the two candidates, while about 7 in 10 independents voted for Sanders.

On the GOP side, Cruz won a majority of self-described Republicans, while independents were about evenly split between Trump and Cruz. Two-thirds of very conservative voters supported Cruz, as did about half of those describing themselves as somewhat conservative. Moderates were somewhat more likely to support Trump than either Cruz or Kasich.

In his victory, Cruz swept all age and education levels and won with both men and women.

The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as primary voters left their polling places at 35 randomly selected sites in Wisconsin. The preliminary results include interviews with 1,188 Democratic primary voters and 1,012 Republican primary voters and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Updates with latest numbers.

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