AP NEWS

VoteCast: Immigration issue helps DeSantis to win

November 7, 2018
1 of 22

Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey celebrate after winning the Florida Governor's race during DeSantis' party at the Rosen Centre in Orlando on Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — Republican Ron DeSantis beat Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race with strong support from voters who ranked immigration, the economy or jobs as their No. 1 issue, according to a wide-ranging survey of the electorate.

AP VoteCast found that 8 in 10 voters who were most concerned about immigration voted for DeSantis. He won 6 of 10 votes from those placing the economy and jobs their top issue.

Voters cast ballots for governor, U.S. Senate and members of Congress on Tuesday. Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Florida, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast. The innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,744 voters and 679 nonvoters in the battleground state of Florida — was conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

___

RACE FOR GOVERNOR

Ron DeSantis, a former congressman, put his thanks squarely where it was due after winning: with President Donald Trump. He said Trump’s support made all the difference in his defeat of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who was hoping to become Florida’s first black governor and the first Democrat elected governor since 1994.

“I’d like to thank our president for standing by me, for standing by me when it wasn’t necessarily the smart thing,” DeSantis said. “Mr. President, I look forward to working with you to advance Florida’s priorities.”

Trump, who carried Florida in his presidential win, tweeted his congratulations early Wednesday: “Ron DeSantis showed great courage in his hard fought campaign to become the Governor of Florida. Congratulations to Ron and family!”

Republicans have now won the governor’s office six consecutive times. The Capitol will enter its third decade under complete Republican rule when DeSantis takes office in January.

Gillum trailed by about 1 percentage point and fewer than 80,000 votes when he conceded. He had built a lot of enthusiasm around his campaign and led in most polls leading up to the final week of the election.

Gillum led DeSantis among voters under 45 in the race for governor. Voters ages 45 and older appeared to prefer DeSantis. Black voters and Hispanic voters preferred Gillum. White voters overall preferred DeSantis. Whites without a college degree were more likely to support DeSantis. Similarly, white college graduates appeared to prefer DeSantis.

___

SCOTT DECLARES VICTORY IN SENATE RACE

The race for the U.S. Senate in Florida between Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott remained too close to call Wednesday — with a margin of less than one half of 1 percent. Under state law in Florida, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate’s margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. The Associated Press does not call any race that may proceed to a recount.

Hours earlier, Scott declared victory over the three-term senator.

A wealthy former hospital executive, Scott entered politics as part of the 2010 tea party movement and poured $60 million of his own money into the Senate race.

Nelson was a congressman from 1979 to 1991. From 1995 to 2001, he served in state government before his Senate election in 2000.

Nelson did not publicly concede.

Scott was preferred over Nelson among white voters. Whites with a college education leaned toward Scott, and whites without a college degree supported Scott as well.

Nelson had a sizable advantage among black voters and also had an apparent advantage among Hispanic voters.

Voters under 45 favored Nelson; those ages 45 and older appeared to prefer Scott.

___

TOP ISSUES

Voters considered several issues to be important to their vote in this midterm election, including immigration (near a third), health care (4 in 10), the economy (nearly 2 in 10), gun policy (1 in 10) and the environment (less than 1 in 10).

Both Scott and Nelson clashed sharply in their Senate race over gun violence, a big issue in Florida following the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nelson favors a ban on military-style assault weapons and implementing a comprehensive system of background checks. Scott signed legislation in Florida that requires anyone wanting to buy a gun to be 21, but the bill didn’t include a ban on assault weapons.

“Gun violence prevention is such an important issue to me,” said Adam Alhanti, a student at Stoneman Douglas High when the massacre occurred. “There are so many things that we need to take charge of, and we can really make a difference, not just in our nation, but right down to our local communities with who represents us in office.”

___

FELONS VOTING

Most Florida felons who have finished their sentences will be able to vote again in future elections. Voters approved Amendment 4, which says most felons will automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences or go on probation.

The amendment won support across most demographic groups in Florida. Support for the ballot was especially strong among liberal Democratic voters — roughly 9 in 10 supported. By contrast, just about half of conservative Republicans voted in favor. Among black voters, about 9 in 10 expressed support for the amendment.

___

COUNTRY ON THE RIGH TRACK?

Nearly half of Florida voters said the country is on the right track, compared with slightly more than half who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

___

STATE OF THE ECONOMY

Voters have a positive view of the nation’s current economic outlook — two-thirds said the nation’s economy is good, compared with a third who said it is not good.

___

TRUMP FACTOR

For a third of Florida voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting votes. By comparison, 3 in 10 said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and slightly more than a third said they voted to express opposition to Trump.

Voters in Florida had mixed views of Trump: half said they approve of how he is handling his job as president, while the other half said they disapprove of Trump.

Anjenys Gonzalez of Miami voted for Democrats Gillum in the governor’s race and Nelson for Senate. She said Trump’s endorsements of their opponents were factors in her decisions. “I think his administration has done the exact opposite of upholding our democracy,” she said. “Anybody he’s endorsing clearly is in line with his policies.”

Chaunce O’Connor, an Independent from Westchester, Florida, said Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis for governor had no bearing on his decision to vote for him. “I don’t judge a person by who they’re influenced by,” he said. “I judge them solely by their success and what their past is.”

___

CONTROL OF CONGRESS

Tuesday’s elections determined control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and three-fourths of Florida voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Another 2 in 10 said it was somewhat important.

___

STAYING AT HOME

In Florida, two-thirds 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 — 8 in 10 — did not have a college degree. About as many nonvoters were Democrats (3 in 10) as Republicans (3 in 10).

___

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 3,744 voters and 679 nonvoters in Florida 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 .

___

Online:

For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Associated Press Writers Brendan Farrington, Gary Fineout, Kelli Kennedy and Ellis Rua in Florida contributed to this report.

AP RADIO
Update hourly