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Mass. independents voted for change, exit poll says

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Voters on Super Tuesday lined up outside the polling location inside the Old South Church in Boston.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Independent-minded voters who make up more than half of the Massachusetts electorate sought a change from the status quo when casting their ballots in the presidential primary.

Early results of the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks show that Hillary Clinton was leading among those who consider themselves Democrats, but independent voters who participated in the Democratic primary chose Bernie Sanders by a nearly 2-1 margin.

Clinton was favored by voters who valued experience in government and the ability to beat the Republicans in November.

Likewise about half of all Republican primary voters who consider themselves independent broke for Donald Trump over his rivals, US Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

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Trump also was favored by Republican voters who said they were angry and dissatisfied with government.

Here is a closer look at the mood of the electorate in Massachusetts:

Trust vs. experience

Stark differences emerged among Democratic voters when asked which of several qualities were most important to the candidate they chose. An overwhelming number of voters who valued experience above other qualities selected Clinton, as did about three in four who considered the ability to defeat the Republican nominee in November. Conversely, voters who said honesty mattered most to them broke overwhelmingly for Sanders, and 7 of 10 who valued most the phrase ''cares about people like me,'' also chose the Vermont senator.

Angry outsiders

More than half of Republican voters said they would prefer a candidate outside the political establishment to one with political experience. Trump garnered more than 7 in 10 of those voters and was also strongly favored by those who characterized themselves as angry or dissatisfied with government. He was also the overwhelming favorite among voters who sought a candidate who ''tells it like it is.'' But among voters who said ''sharing my values'' was the quality that mattered most to them in deciding how they voted, Trump did not fare as well, finishing behind John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in that category.

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Independent influence

People who are not enrolled in any political party make up more than 53 percent of the registered voters in Massachusetts and could vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries. And it appeared these independent-minded voters were leaning strongly in the direction of candidates viewed as outside the mainstream. While Clinton led among those who consider themselves Democrats, voters who self-described as independent broke for Sanders by a nearly 2-1 margin. Likewise about half of all Republican voters who consider themselves independent said they cast their ballots for Trump.

On the issues

When Democratic voters were asked which of four issues — health care, economy/jobs, terrorism or income inequality — was the most important facing the country, about 4 in 10 chose the economy and 3 in 10 said income inequality. About 6 in 10 of those citing income inequality supported Sanders, who has made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign. Clinton led slightly among those who saw the overall economy and jobs as the key issue, and she also led slightly among those who identified health care or terrorism as most important.

The four issues Republicans were asked to choose from as most important were immigration, economy/jobs, terrorism and government spending. About one in three Massachusetts Republican voters identified the economy as the most important issue and among them, Trump led slightly, with Rubio second. But of the nearly one in five Republican voters who called immigration the most important issue, nearly 7 in 10 opted for Trump over the other GOP contenders.

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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 25 randomly selected sites in Massachusetts. Preliminary results include interviews with 846 Democratic primary voters and 469 Republican primary voters.

The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points for Democratic primary voters and plus or minus 7 percentage points for Republican primary voters.