A majority of voters casting midterm election ballots in West Virginia said the country is headed in the right direction, 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 about 6 in 10 West Virginia voters said the country is on the right track, compared with 4 in 10 who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in West Virginia, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 135,000 voters and nonvoters — including 2,610 voters and 831 nonvoters in the state of West Virginia — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
RACE FOR SENATE
In the race for Senate, Democrat Joe Manchin was roughly even with Republican Patrick Morrisey among voters under 45; in addition, those ages 45 and older were split.
Voters with a college education appeared to prefer Manchin. Conversely, voters without a college degree leaned toward Morrisey.
Retired Kanawha County sheriff’s deputy Susie Heilmann said she felt compelled to vote because “so many wonderful people gave their lives for the privilege to come here and cast my ballot.” A Republican, Heilmann praised Manchin for his vote to affirm the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, but when it came down to supporting Manchin at the ballot box, “I just couldn’t.”
Manchin, a former governor, was seeking a second full Senate term representing a state that supported Donald Trump for president by 42 percentage points in 2016. Morrisey is a two-term state attorney general and staunch Trump supporter.
Manchin has made maintaining health care protections for pre-existing conditions a major focus of his campaign and has hit Morrisey for joining a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Morrisey calls Manchin a liberal who only acts bipartisan around Election Day.
Voters considered several issues to be important this midterm election, including the economy, immigration and health care by about a quarter of voters for each. About 1 in 10 cited terrorism as important, followed by the environment (1 in 10) and the environment (1 in 20).
Roger Malcomb of Alum Creek, who suffers from black lung disease, said he wants to see Congress tackle health care next year. He said the government should be responsible for making health care available to all Americans because they’ve paid taxes their entire lives for it.
“If I go for an MRI, it costs me $1,000. And my medication stuff for my lungs, everything runs about $500 a month,” Malcomb said. “I’ve got to pay that out of my own pocket. There is no such thing as health care anymore.”
Malcomb said he typically votes a straight Democratic ticket. This year, “I voted for the person. I didn’t for politics, Democrats or Republicans,” he said.
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 one-third who said it is not good.
For roughly 4 in 10 West Virginia voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their vote. By comparison, 6 in 10 said Trump was a reason for their vote.
Retiree Larry Linch of Clarksburg called Trump “a national embarrassment.”
“Every day we wake up and turn on the news to see what stupidness he’s done that day, or is trying to do,” Linch said.
Linch said Trump was a main factor in his voting decisions.
“I picked each one individually, but they all had a ‘D’ by them,” he said.
CONTROL OF CONGRESS
Tuesday’s elections will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and more than two-thirds of West Virginia voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Some 1 in 5 said it was somewhat important.
Democrat Richard Ojeda, a retired Army paratrooper known for his tattoos and populist message, looked to break through Republican dominance in West Virginia in a showdown with a fellow state lawmaker for an open congressional seat.
Standing in his way was Carol Miller, a member of the GOP leadership team in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
STAYING AT HOME
In West Virginia, 7 in 10 registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — 9 in 10 percent — did not have a college degree. More nonvoters were Republicans (4 in 10) than Democrats (2 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 2,610 voters and 831 nonvoters in West Virginia 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.
Associated Press Writer John Raby contributed to this report from Charleston, West Virginia.