CHICAGO (AP) — Voters casting midterm election ballots in Texas are divided over the state of the nation, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.
As voters cast ballots for governor, U.S. Senate and members of Congress in Tuesday's elections, AP VoteCast found that almost half of Texas voters said the country is on the right track, while half said the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in Texas, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 138,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,760 voters and 832 nonvoters in the state of Texas — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
RACE FOR SENATE
No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, but U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke was putting up a tough fight in his effort to unseat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. White voters favored Cruz over O'Rourke, including those with and without a college degree. O'Rourke had a sizable advantage among black voters and also was preferred among Hispanic voters.
Voters under 45 supported O'Rourke; those ages 45 and older preferred Cruz.
John DeOrian, a 28-year-old financial analyst, said he comes from a Republican family but turned out to vote for O'Rourke, calling himself "reluctantly a Democratic voter."
"I'm trying to punish the Republicans for enabling some silliness at the national level. It's maybe more a vote against Cruz than for O'Rourke," DeOrian said.
Ken Wenzl, a 66-year-old computer trainer, voted for Cruz because he wants to make sure Trump can achieve his agenda: "He is amazing the way he is going after stuff," Wenzl said of Trump.
RACE FOR GOVERNOR
Voters under 45 were divided between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Lupe Valdez in the race for governor. Voters ages 45 and older and white voters overall favored Abbott.
Black voters and Hispanic voters were more likely to favor Valdez.
TOP ISSUE: IMMIGRATION
Immigration was at the forefront of Texas voters' minds, with 3 in 10 saying it was the most important issue facing the nation in this year's midterm elections. Almost one-fourth said health care was most important and another one-fifth said the economy was most important. Gun policy and terrorism also were cited as the top issue, though by lesser margins.
Octavio Rodriguez, 45, a digital business integration manager from Dallas who considers himself neither a Republican nor Democrat, wore a shirt that read "Immigrant" as he went to the polls Tuesday morning. Rodriguez was born in Mexico and his family moved here when he was very young. He said he became a U.S. citizen thanks to the immigration reform act signed by President Ronald Reagan.
He said that the picture being painted of immigration isn't accurate. "I think there's a lack of common sense in government overall, and I'm talking about both Republicans and Democrats when I say that," he said.
Texas' booming Hispanic population is roughly 11 million and is on pace to outnumber whites as early as 2022. Since 2010, Hispanic population growth in Texas has outpaced whites 3-to-1.
STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Enrique Matta said the economy was one of the issues at the top of his mind when he voted early this election. The software developer, who was born in Puerto Rico, said he did not vote for President Donald Trump in 2016, but has approved of the tax cuts and how the president has handled issues around pharmacy drugs.
"Economically, we're going in the right direction, but we have so much vitriol between the left and the right," he said.
Other Texas voters also had a positive view of the nation's current economic outlook, with 7 in 10 saying the nation's economy is good, compared with almost 3 in 10 who said it isn't.
Wenzl the computer trainer said he is particularly grateful that Trump has cut government regulations.
For more than one-third of Texas voters, Trump was not a factor in how they voted, while more than 6 in 10 said he was. And they had mixed views of the president, with about half saying they approved of how he is handling his job and half saying they disapprove of him.
Amanda Martin, 40, a high school teacher, said she is a Republican but her displeasure with Trump affected her vote.
"I like that Trump is trying to secure the borders but I don't believe he's tactful in his relations with how he communicates with the media and he's not a good face for our country," Martin said.
Trump won Texas by 9 points in 2016, which made him the first Republican presidential candidate in two decades not to carry Texas by double-digit margins. Virtually all Texas Republicans on the ballot, from Cruz to Gov. Greg Abbott, have been unwavering in their support of the Trump administration.
CONTROL OF CONGRESS
Tuesday's elections will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump's term in office, and three-fourths of Texas voters said that was very important as they considered their vote. Another 2 in 10 said it was somewhat important.
Javier Paz, a 41-year-old public school history teacher, said he volunteered for the O'Rourke campaign against Cruz because he believes O'Rourke can act as a balance against Trump's policies and on other Republicans who he doesn't believe hold the president accountable.
"They really don't check him on anything," he said.
STAYING AT HOME
In Texas, 7 in 10 registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — 8 in 10 — did not have a college degree. About 3 in 10 nonvoters were Democrats, while slightly more nonvoters were Republicans.
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