Most voters in Michigan worried about nation's direction

Nearly six in 10 said their feelings about Trump influenced their ballot choices

By John Flesher
Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Health care and President Donald Trump’s performance were important factors for Michigan residents who cast midterm election ballots Tuesday, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate that found widespread unease with the nation’s course.

Among Michigan voters casting ballots for governor, U.S. senator and members of Congress, AP VoteCast found that nearly six in 10 believed the country is heading in the wrong direction, while about four in 10 said things are on the right track.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Michigan, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 138,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,943 voters and 649 nonvoters in the state of Michigan — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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RACE FOR GOVERNOR

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer’s victory in the race for governor was propelled by voters under age 45, with whom she had a sizable advantage over Republican Bill Schuette. Older voters also appeared to favor Whitmer, but by a smaller margin.

Whitmer also prevailed overwhelmingly among black voters, while whites were about evenly divided. She had a modest advantage among white college graduates, while Schuette carried whites without a college degree.

Tyler Bevier, 26, a Traverse City Democrat who works in a local government planning office, said Michigan sorely needs to pour money into better roads, wastewater treatment, telecommunications and other infrastructure. “Fix the damn roads” was one of Whitmer’s campaign slogans.

“I think Gretchen Whitmer has a more solid plan for how to fund those improvements, and she has the experience to put them into action,” Bevier said.

Erin Miller, 49, a marketing and communications specialist who lives near Grand Rapids, said she favored Schuette’s support of lower taxes and plans to make state government less wasteful.

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RACE FOR SENATE

In the U.S. Senate race, three-term Democrat Debbie Stabenow’s overwhelming support among black voters was decisive as whites leaned toward Republican John James. Whites without a college degree favored James, while white college graduates were evenly divided.

Voters under age 45 preferred Stabenow, while those 45 and older were split.

“She’s pragmatic and works across the aisle,” said Kristin Schrader, 51, a marketing and communications officer from Superior Township in Washtenaw County.

Schrader praised Stabenow, a former chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and now its ranking minority member, for getting farm legislation enacted when Congress was gridlocked on most issues. “I’m just impressed with the way she gets things done.”

Tina Newby, 43, an information technology specialist from Westland, supported James, praising his military background and success in business. Stabenow has little to show for her time in Washington, Newby said: “What has she done for Michigan?”

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TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE

Health care was at the forefront of voters’ minds, with about three in 10 labeling it the top issue facing the nation.

“People don’t make job changes or move or start new businesses because they’re scared of losing their health care,” Schrader said. “It’s this big, wet blanket that keeps America and the economy from being what it could be.”

About one-fifth of Michigan voters considered the economy and jobs the most important issue.

“If we have jobs, we can have immigrants because there will be work for them to do,” Newby said. “If we have jobs, there will be money for health care. If we don’t have the jobs, everything sinks.”

Nearly as many voters said immigration was the top issue, while smaller numbers chose gun policy and the environment.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

Michigan voters were mostly upbeat about the U.S. economy, with about seven in 10 saying it’s in good shape, while about three in 10 described it as bad.

“My husband has gotten pay raises, promotions, in the last couple of years,” said Jackie Malega, 34, a stay-at-home mom in Westland. “I don’t see as many of my friends struggling as they were a few years ago. Everywhere I go, I see hiring signs.”

Shayne Daley, 51, an executive recruiter from Detroit, said the economic expansion and job growth are holdovers from the Obama administration that probably won’t last.

“Every policy that Trump pushes is threatening that economic growth,” he said.

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TRUMP FACTOR

Nearly six in 10 Michigan voters said their feelings about Trump influenced their ballot choices. Nearly four in 10 said a reason for their vote was to show opposition to the president, while about two in 10 said they wanted to send a message of support.

About four in 10 said the president wasn’t a factor.

But even some who said Trump didn’t play a role in deciding for whom they’d vote said he helped motivate them to participate.

“Overall, I would have voted for the same candidates regardless of the Trump effect,” Bevier said. “But it lit the fire of desire a bit more to go out and vote.”

Malega said she was happy to give Trump a boost.

“I like that he’s not a traditional politician,” she said. “I like that he’s outspoken. I don’t always agree 100 percent with what he has to say but for the most part I do.”

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CONTROL OF CONGRESS

Tuesday’s elections will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and about six in 10 Michigan voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Roughly one-quarter said it was somewhat important.

“The Republicans in Congress have abdicated their constitutional responsibility to provide checks and balances,” Daley said. “They’ve allowed Trump to do whatever he likes. Absolutely deplorable.”

Miller said her support of James wasn’t based on a desire to bolster Trump’s backing in the Senate. But she praised the president’s handling of the economy and willingness to take on difficult issues such as trade, where previously “we’ve sort of been kicking the can down the road.”

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STAYING AT HOME

In Michigan, nearly seven 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 — more than eight in 10 — did not have a college degree. About as many nonvoters were Democrats as Republicans — roughly three in 10.

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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 3,943 voters and 649 nonvoters in Michigan 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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