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AP VoteCast: Wisconsin voters sour on state of nation

November 4, 2020 GMT
Voters wait in line outside a polling center on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
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Voters wait in line outside a polling center on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
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Voters wait in line outside a polling center on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Voters in Wisconsin made their pick for president while holding negative views about the country’s direction and economy, according to an expansive AP survey of the American electorate.

The race between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden concluded Tuesday as the nation struggles with a pandemic and a deep economic downturn. AP VoteCast found that nearly 4 in 10 Wisconsin voters said the U.S. is on the right track and 6 in 10 voters said it is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and what matters to them, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of about 133,000 voters and nonvoters -- including 3,506 voters and 593 nonvoters in Wisconsin -- conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

TRUMP VS BIDEN

Trump is looking to repeat his 2016 victory and his capture of the state’s 10 electoral votes by less than 23,000 votes, or about 1%. His victory in what was once part of a solidly Democratic voting “Blue Wall” of Midwest and Great Lakes states was a first for a Republican presidential candidate in over two decades.

Biden had an advantage over Trump among voters under 45 but older voters were divided between Biden and Trump.

“America first, there you go,” said David Danke, a 64-year-old retiree who voted for Trump in Kenosha. “Keep the jobs in this country.”

Biden led Trump among college-educated voters. Voters without a college degree were divided.

Both voters in cities and suburban voters were more likely to support Biden over Trump but Trump had an apparent advantage over Biden among voters in small towns and rural areas.

FACING THE PANDEMIC

Wisconsin has the nation’s third highest number of coronavirus cases per capita and its death toll recently topped 2,000.

Overall, more than 1 in 10 voters said the virus in the U.S. is completely or mostly under control, and about one quarter said it’s somewhat under control. About 6 in 10 voters think the coronavirus is not at all under control in this country.

Eric Engstrom, a 31-year-old investment analyst in Madison, Wisconsin, who voted by mail for Biden, said the virus is the most immediate threat facing the nation.

“My wife and I were just on a walk talking about how we’re expecting a baby in January and to see hospitals filling up, to even think about the potential of one of us or both of us being sick when the baby is born. …The response to this has been abysmal,” he said. “If there was any chance that I was going to vote for Trump, it was eliminated because of the pandemic.”

Fears of catching the virus help explain why so many Wisconsin voters chose to return absentee ballots this year. Even before Election Day, more than 1.8 million had already voted this way, more than half of the total votes cast in the 2016 election.

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ON THE ISSUES

The coronavirus pandemic was top of mind for many voters in Wisconsin. More than 4 in 10 said it is the most important issue facing the country today.

Voters also considered the economy a major issue, with about one quarter saying it ranked at the top.

Nearly 1 in 10 named health care, less than 1 in 10 named racism and less than 1 in 10 named law enforcement.

Trump visited Wisconsin several times in his campaign, warning supporters at an October rally that Democrats were trying to “destroy the American way of life.” He emphasized his law-and-order message in an earlier Kenosha visit, after the protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake there.

During his own Kensoha visit, Biden met with the Blake family and expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

NATIONAL ECONOMY

Voters were more negative than positive in their assessments of the nation’s economy. Overall, more than 4 in 10 described economic conditions in the U.S. as excellent or good, and nearly 6 in 10 called them not so good or poor.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 5.4% in September, below the national rate but 2 points higher than a year ago.

Amy Arntsen, 56, of Middleton, said she voted for Biden partly because she is worried about people losing their jobs during the pandemic, and is not reassured at all by a rising stock market that the president has touted.

“The rich are getting richer but . . . the poor are getting poorer,” she said. “The way we value the stock market above people is corrupt.”

STAYING AT HOME

Among registered voters who chose not to cast a ballot in Wisconsin, one quarter said that was because they don’t like politics generally, 2 in 10 said they don’t like the candidates and more than 1 in 10 said they are concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus.

In Wisconsin, 6 in 10 of nonvoters were younger than 45 and 8 in 10 did not have a college degree.

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AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for Fox News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Univision News, USA Today Network, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. The survey of 3,506 voters in Wisconsin was conducted for eight days, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The survey combines a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file and self-identified registered voters selected from nonprobability online panels. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 2 percentage points. Find more details about AP VoteCast’s methodology at https://ap.org/votecast.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. presidential elections: https://apnews.com/hub/election-2020