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VoteCast: Mississippi voters divided on state of nation

November 7, 2018
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Sporting his "Make America Great Again," cap, Russ Griffith, of Brandon, Miss., watches election results at the Mississippi joint party for both Republican U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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

As voters cast ballots for U.S. Senate and members of Congress in Tuesday’s elections, AP VoteCast found that 52 percent of Mississippi voters said the country is on the right track, compared with 46 percent who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Mississippi, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 138,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,031 voters and 833 nonvoters in the state of Mississippi — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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TWO SENATE SEATS

— Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker defeated Democratic state Rep. David Baria and two others Tuesday, keeping the seat he has held since 2007.

Wicker was preferred over Baria among white voters. Whites with a college education supported Wicker, and whites without a college degree favored Wicker as well. Baria was preferred among black voters. Voters under 45 were divided in their support; those ages 45 and older preferred Wicker.

—Mississippi’s U.S. Senate special election is headed to a runoff, and the state’s voters will either elect a woman to the office for the first time ever or a black man for the first time since Reconstruction. Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy advanced from a field of four. They compete in a Nov. 27 runoff, and the winner will serve the final two years of a term started by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired in April.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith, who was state agriculture commissioner, to temporarily succeed Cochran until the special election is decided. She is the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress, but no woman has been elected to the job from the state. She is endorsed by President Donald Trump. Espy is a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary.

Voters under 45 supported Espy; those ages 45 and older modestly supported Hyde-Smith.

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TOP ISSUES

Asked about their top concerns, roughly one in four voters chose immigration, the economy, or health care.

Health care was the top issue for Rhonda Davidson, 55, who said needed oxygen treatments and was on disability. She also criticized Trump’s tough talk on immigrants and deployment of troops to the Southern border to meet migrants making their way north from Central America through Mexico. She lamented the idea of sending troops with firearms to meet desperate migrants.

“That’s totally unacceptable,” she said. “That’s not who we are.”

Well over half of voters considered the nation’s economic outlook good, with about four in 10 saying it is not good.

On the economy, Ricky McCulley, 57, of Diamondhead, said Trump “has done a terrific job on the economy. I have more money in my pocket on payday then I did before he took as president.”

Still, Mary Ann Holmes, 66, a retiree in Jackson with a mortgage paid off, said she was concerned for those struggling to get by on the minimum wage. Mississippi, like some other states, hasn’t increased its minimum wage above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour.

“I would like for those in the Senate and the House and the president to make $7.25 and see if they can maintain” themselves, Holmes said.

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TRUMP FACTOR

About a third of voters in Mississippi, a state carried by Trump in the 2016 election, said Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their vote.

McCulley was an example. He said he considers himself a conservative rather than a Republican or Democrat. And, although he likes the economy under Trump, he considers the president “kind of wishy-washy on things.” He said he didn’t vote in the last presidential election because he couldn’t vote for Trump.

Paramedic Dawn Roderick, 49, of Diamondhead, said Trump was a motivator but not the factor in her vote.

“Every way, I just feel we need to keep the Democrats out, and the Republicans in. You’re in Trump territory,” Roderick explained.

Still, the VoteCast survey found that about two-thirds of Mississippi voters said Trump was a reason for their vote.

“I think Donald Trump is out of control and unless he has some kind of checks and balances on his behavior, we are in trouble,” said Octavia Clayborne, 66, voting in Jackson.

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CONTROL OF CONGRESS

Tuesday’s elections determined control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and more than three-quarters of Mississippi’s voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. More than 1 in 10 said it was somewhat important.

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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 3,031 voters and 833 nonvoters in Mississippi 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 2.5 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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This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Dawn Roderick’s first name.

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Associated Press reporters Janet McConnaughey, Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report.

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