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AP VoteCast: Georgia voters divided over state of the nation

November 7, 2018
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This combination of May 20, 2018, photos shows Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp in Atlanta. Democrats and Republicans nationwide will have to wait a bit longer to see if Georgia elects the first black woman governor in American history or doubles down on the Deep South’s GOP tendencies with an acolyte of President Donald Trump (AP Photos/John Amis, File)

Voters casting midterm election ballots in Georgia are divided over the state of the nation, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.

As voters cast ballots for governor and members of Congress in Tuesday’s elections, AP VoteCast found that 47 percent of Georgia voters said the country is on the right track, compared with 51 percent who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Georgia, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,984 voters and 627 nonvoters in the state of Georgia — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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WAITING ON THE GOVERNOR’S RACE

Georgia’s hotly contested and potentially historic governor’s race wasn’t over yet — with Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp awaiting the final accounting of absentee and provisional ballots.

With reported votes approaching 3.8 million, Kemp was just shy of 51 percent, but Abrams and her campaign said there were enough ballots outstanding, particularly absentee ballots in heavily Democratic metro Atlanta counties, to bring the Republican below the majority threshold required for victory. But it was still possible the race could go to a runoff. In Georgia, a race goes to an automatic runoff if neither candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

“We believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach, but we cannot seize it until all voices are heard,” Abrams told supporters at an Atlanta hotel early Wednesday.

Kemp said he was “confident victory is near” but added he would await final results.

Abrams was seeking to become the first black female governor in U.S. history and end years of Republican dominance in Georgia. Kemp, a 54-year-old businessman and veteran secretary of state, sought to maintain the GOP’s hold on a state that is nearing presidential battleground status courtesy of its growth and diversity. Republicans have won every Georgia governor’s race since 2002.

Early returns showed Kemp running up large margins across rural and small-town Georgia, but parts of metro Atlanta, where Abrams’ strength is concentrated, had yet to report. Some of those Atlanta-area counties had extended voting hours for some precincts to accommodate the crowds and compensate for problems.

The VoteCast survey showed Abrams had a sizable advantage over Kemp among voters under 45 in the race for governor. Voters ages 45 and older were more likely to support Kemp. Black voters and Hispanic voters were more likely to favor Abrams. White voters overall favored Kemp. Whites without a college degree were more likely to favor Kemp. In addition, white college graduates were more likely to favor Kemp.

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TOP ISSUES

Top issues for Georgia voters included health care and immigration, each chosen by roughly a quarter of those surveyed. Other issues of concern to Georgia voters were the economy (2 in 10), gun policy (nearly 1 in 10), and terrorism (less than 1 in 10).

Voter Julia King touched on both in an election day interview. “Health, I think, is a right that everyone should enjoy,” said King, 20, a college student in Decatur. “And no matter your religion, your gender or immigration status or where you fall on the socio economic ladder.”

Voter Nicole Whatley said in an election day interview that she disliked President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration. However Trump supporter Cindy West said at a recent rally that she supported Trump’s immigration stance. “I don’t want to be a state that gives sanctuary to illegals,” West said.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

Voters have a positive view of the nation’s current economic outlook — about 7 in 10 said the nation’s economy is good, compared with a third who said it’s not good.

A strong economy was a selling point used by Trump as he campaigned around the nation for Kemp and other candidates.

“I work at a small business and it’s really important for me and my boss, who owns the business, that our taxes stay low so we can stay operating,” said Kemp supporter Ryan Henschel, an 18-year-old casting his first ballot.

Economic inequality was on the mind of some voters supporting Democrats. Brian Sherman, 75, of the Atlanta area community of Decatur, said he was voting for Democrats to address that issue.

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TRUMP FACTOR

For 47 percent of Georgia voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. By comparison, 24 percent said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and 28 percent said they voted to express opposition to Trump.

Voters in Georgia had mixed views of Trump: 50 percent said they approve of how he is handling his job as president, the same amount as those who said they disapprove of Trump.

“I think that Trump has promoted fear and bigotry in this country and really enabled the rise of fascism and I think today is an opportunity to turn that tide,” Lena Kotler said while voting in Decatur, an Atlanta suburb.

West, on the other hand, ran through a list of issues that aligned with Trump positions.

“I’m concerned about the Supreme Court,” West said, “I’m anti-abortion, so that is always at the top of the list, and I want to build the wall.”

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STAYING AT HOME

In Georgia, 75 percent of registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — 82 percent — did not have a college degree. Roughly as many nonvoters were Democrats (33 percent) as Republicans (35 percent).

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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 3,984 voters and 627 nonvoters in Georgia 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 .

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Associated Press writers Ravi Nessman, Ben Nadler, Bill Barrow and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.apnews.com/apvotecast

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