By TAMMY WEBBER
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 135,000 voters and nonvoters - including 3,711 voters and 827 nonvoters in the state - conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
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. About one-fifth 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, wore a shirt that read "Immigrant" as he went to the polls on 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 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 3 in 10 who said it isn't.
For more than one-third of Texas voters, President Donald Trump was not a factor in how they voted, while more than 6 in 10 said he was.
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 Sen. Ted 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 Beto 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.
AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate in all 50 states conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 3,711 voters and 827 nonvoters in Texas was conducted Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, concluding as polls close on Election Day. It combines interviews in English or Spanish with a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter files and self-identified registered voters selected from opt-in online panels. Participants in the probability-based portion of the survey were contacted by phone and mail, and had the opportunity to take the survey by phone or online. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 2.0 percentage points. All surveys are subject to multiple sources of error, including from sampling, question wording and order, and nonresponse. Find more details about AP VoteCast's methodology at http://www.ap.org/votecast.
Associated Press writers Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, and Jamie Stengle and Ryan Tarinelli in Dallas contributed to this story.
For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
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