AP VoteCast: Ohio voters sour on state of nation


By John Seewer - Associated Press



Voters in Ohio gave President Donald Trump the state’s coveted 18 electoral votes while holding negative views about the country’s direction and the economy, according to an expansive AP survey of the American electorate.

As voters on Tuesday finished deciding between Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden in a year roiled by a global pandemic and an economic downturn, AP VoteCast found that almost 3 in 5 Ohio voters said the U.S. it is on the wrong track while about 2 in 5 said the nation is headed in the right 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 127,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,902 voters and 722 in Ohio — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

RACE FOR PRESIDENT

For a second time, Trump won Ohio behind the strong backing of working-class voters and those in the state’s rural areas.

Trump led among voters without a college degree while college-educated voters appeared to prefer Biden over the president.

Voters in small towns and rural areas were more likely to support Trump over Biden, and the two were about even among suburban voters. The Democrat was preferred over Trump among voters in Ohio’s cities.

Biden’s strategy in the state centered on winning its suburbs and taking back the votes of blue-collar workers who abandoned the Democratic party in 2016.

Trump touted his success with the economy and promised that his policies would bring back jobs to hard-hit communities.

Chris Bennett, 46, an auto mechanic from Cleveland said he voted for Trump and liked his handling of the economy. “Before the pandemic hit, it was awesome and it’s rebounding as fast as I think it can,” he said.

Stacy Carlson, 50, of Hilliard in suburban Columbus, said there wasn’t just one issue that helped make her decision to vote for Biden.

“The division of the country, his handling of COVID, his handling of civil liberties. The list goes on,” she said.

Biden was about tied with Trump among voters under 45 while older voters were more likely to back Trump. Black voters were more likely to back Biden, and white voters were more likely to favor Trump.

FACING THE PANDEMIC

Ohio began setting records for rising coronavirus cases in October and seeing a rise in deaths. The surge coincided with the beginning of early voting across the state — difficult timing for Trump, who was criticized by Biden for not doing enough to control the pandemic.

Overall, 1 in 5 voters said the virus in the U.S. is completely or mostly under control, and roughly 3 in 10 said it’s somewhat under control. About half of Ohio voters think the coronavirus is not at all under control in this country.

Trump has argued that governors should fully reopen the economy and falsely asserted on the campaign trail that Biden was determined to lock it down to control the rising virus numbers. Biden has said he would only tighten virus restrictions if that is what government scientists advise.

Karen Beamon, a 58-year-old who lives in a rural area near Toledo, said she voted for Trump and liked that he pushed back against wearing masks.

“I’m really disappointed we’re under such mandates,” she said. “I think people who have pre-existing conditions should be careful. I’m really concerned that if Biden wins he’ll put us under another lockdown.”

NATIONAL ECONOMY

Trump argued that Ohio’s economy was strong before the pandemic hit. He also bragged that manufacturing in the state was booming again — even though those jobs began slipping in 2019 after two years of small growth.

Voters were slightly more negative than positive in their assessments of the nation’s economy. Overall, just under half described economic conditions in the U.S. as excellent or good, while roughly a little more than half called them not so good or poor.

“Our economy has taken a downturn. Millions of people are unemployed right now. To me, that’s not a great America,” said the Rev. Jerry Boose, a 63-year-old Baptist pastor who lives near Toledo and voted for Biden.

Stacy Leck, a 51-year-old customer service representative who lives just outside Toledo, said Trump is more likely to pull the nation out of the economic downturn.

“He knows how to run things,” she said. “I’m not going to say he’s not crazy. Some of the things he does is childish. But I feel he is best suited because of his background in business.”

ON THE ISSUES

The coronavirus pandemic was top of mind for many voters in Ohio, with 2 in 5 saying it is the most important issue facing the country today.

Voters also considered the economy a major issue, with 3 in 10 saying it ranked at the top. Roughly 1 in 10 named health care.

STAYING AT HOME

Among registered voters who chose not to cast a ballot in Ohio, 1 in 5 said that was because they don’t like politics generally, 1 in 5 said their vote doesn’t matter and another 1 in 5 said they don’t like the candidates.

In Ohio, 7 in 10 of nonvoters were younger than 45 and a large share did not have a college degree.

By John Seewer

Associated Press