WASHINGTON – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders rode a wave of voter discontent with the Washington establishment and deep anxiety over the economy to victory in Michigan’s primary election Tuesday, exit polls showed.
Despite their vast differences, both Trump and Sanders were the overwhelming favorites among voters who said the next president should be a political outsider.
They also benefited from a widespread belief that international trade does more harm than good in a state struggling to overcome a Rust Belt legacy of manufacturing jobs outsourced to low-wage countries. More than half the voters in both parties described trade as a job killer. Of those, six in 10 Democrats supported Sanders. Trump far outpolled the other Republican candidates among voters with the same opinion.
In the Mississippi primary, similar resentments fueled another Trump victory. But among Democrats in Mississippi, the only real question was who liked Hillary Clinton the most. Exit polls showed her carrying nearly every voter group as she trounced Sanders.
Here are some highlights of the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research:
Sanders’ populist theme struck a chord, as more than eight in 10 Michigan Democrats said the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy, and just over half of those voters backed the Vermont senator. Nearly four in 10 said they were very worried about the direction of the economy in the next few years, and six in 10 of those favored Sanders.
Nearly six in 10 Michigan Democrats said Clinton is honest, while about eight in 10 said the same of Sanders. But seven in 10 said Clinton’s policies were more realistic, while just over six in 10 described Sanders’ policies as such.
About six in 10 said both Sanders and Clinton have the right approach to business, with slightly more saying that of Clinton than Sanders. But about one-third think Clinton is too pro-business while about two in 10 said Sanders is too anti-business.
Trump continued to draw support from less educated voters, those who favor deporting people working illegally in the U.S. and those wanting a nominee from outside the political mainstream.
Ted Cruz neared or bested Trump among voters describing themselves as very conservative and those who consider it important to have a candidate with whom they share religious beliefs and values. But Trump held a slight lead over Cruz among white evangelical Christians.
John Kasich’s best showing was among voters with advanced degrees, voters seeking a candidate with experience and those who oppose keeping Muslims who aren’t U.S. citizens out of the country.
More than 6 in 10 Michigan Republican voters were very worried about the national economy, and about four in 10 of them favored Trump.
Clinton cruises in Mississippi
Clinton remained hugely popular among black voters. They accounted for about seven in 10 Democratic voters in Mississippi, and nearly nine in 10 of them supported her. Yet she also drew about two-thirds of the vote among whites. About seven in 10 voters under age 45 supported Clinton, whose margin was even more overwhelming among those who are older. She won among women and men, people with less education as well as postgraduates, every income group and moderates.
Clinton even won groups from which Sanders has drawn much of his support elsewhere, including liberals and those who consider income inequality the nation’s biggest problem.
Trump voters in Michigan appeared more enthusiastic than supporters of other candidates. Two-thirds of those favoring Trump said they strongly backed him, compared to about four in 10 of those voting for the other Republicans. Three in 10 of those voting for other candidates said they did so with reservations. And just under three in 10 of those who voted for someone other than Trump said they based the vote on dislike for other candidates rather than support for their choice.
Among Michigan Republicans who said they decided on their vote mostly because they dislike the other options, almost half voted for Kasich.
Too little, too late
Kasich gained ground in Michigan as the election drew near, while Cruz did likewise in Mississippi. But not enough.
About one-quarter of Michigan Republicans said they made their decision in the last few days and four in 10 of them backed Kasich, while three in 10 favored Cruz. In Mississippi, nearly three in 10 decided in the last few days and nearly four in 10 voted for Cruz.
But in both states, more than seven in 10 had their minds made up beforehand – and Trump prevailed with them.
Cruz did best with voters who describe themselves as very conservative, while a majority of moderates and those who consider themselves somewhat conservative backed Trump.
White evangelical Christians were slightly more likely to support Trump than Cruz.
Eight in 10 voters said they are very worried about the direction of the national economy and over half of them backed Trump.
About six in 10 Mississippi Republicans said they wanted a nominee from outside the political establishment, and two-thirds of them supported Trump. Those looking for someone with political experience were more likely to support Cruz.
The surveys were conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites in Michigan and in Mississippi. Preliminary results in Michigan include interviews with 1,601 Democratic primary voters, including 165 absentee or early voters who were interviewed by phone before election day, and 1,341 Republican primary voters, including 155 interviewed by phone. The margin of error in Michigan is plus or minus 4 percentage points for both Democratic and Republican primary voters. Preliminary results in Mississippi include interviews with 1,038 Democratic primary voters and 1,285 Republican primary voters, both with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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Updates with additional results.
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