VoteCast: California voters say nation headed wrong way

Published 11-07-2018

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - A majority of voters casting midterm election ballots in California said the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.

As voters cast ballots for governor, U.S. Senate and members of Congress in Tuesday's elections, AP VoteCast found that about a quarter of California voters said the country is on the right track, compared with roughly 7 out of 10 who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Among the key races that Californians were casting ballots on was the contest for governor, pitting a Democratic heavyweight and a Republican businessman who's never held elected office, and an all-Democrat race between long-time incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a state senator from Los Angeles, Kevin de Leon.

Democrats were seeking to win as many as seven GOP U.S. House seats in a bid to retake control of Congress.

Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in California, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 138,000 voters and nonvoters - including 3,670 voters and 611 nonvoters in the state of California - conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE

Health care was at the forefront of voters' minds: About a quarter of respondents named it as the most important issue facing the nation in this year's midterm elections.

Lawrence Reh, a retired writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Alameda, is among those voters who said health care was an important issue this election.

The 76-year-old said health care is "a human right," and the government has a responsibility to provide it.

"Nov. 7 will be an important day for me because if we don't make any progress in this election, I don't know where we'll go from here," Reh said.

Other key issues for Californians this election: About 1 in 5 considered the economy the most important issue, while about 1 in 5 named immigration.

The environment and gun policy were each top of mind for about 1 in 10 California voters.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

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TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE

Health care was at the forefront of voters' minds: About a quarter of respondents named it as the most important issue facing the nation in this year's midterm elections.

Lawrence Reh, a retired writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Alameda, is among those voters who said health care was an important issue this election.

The 76-year-old said health care is "a human right," and the government has a responsibility to provide it.

"Nov. 7 will be an important day for me because if we don't make any progress in this election, I don't know where we'll go from here," Reh said.

Other key issues for Californians this election: About 1 in 5 considered the economy the most important issue, while about 1 in 5 named immigration.

The environment and gun policy were each top of mind for about 1 in 10 California voters.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

California voters have a positive view of the nation's current economic outlook, with nearly 6 in 10 saying the nation's economy is good, compared with about 4 out of 10 who said it's not.

In California, the economy has been growing, surpassing that of the United Kingdom earlier this year to become the world's fifth largest.

The state has enjoyed more than eight straight years of employment increases, California's second-longest expansion since World War II. The jobless rate slid to a record low 4.1 percent in September a

Lawrence Reh, a retired writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Alameda, is among those voters who said health care was an important issue this election.

The 76-year-old said health care is "a human right," and the government has a responsibility to provide it.

"Nov. 7 will be an important day for me because if we don't make any progress in this election, I don't know where we'll go from here," Reh said.

Other key issues for Californians this election: About 1 in 5 considered the economy the most important issue, while about 1 in 5 named immigration.

The environment and gun policy were each top of mind for about 1 in 10 California voters.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

California voters have a positive view of the nation's current economic outlook, with nearly 6 in 10 saying the nation's economy is good, compared with about 4 out of 10 who said it's not.

In California, the economy has been growing, surpassing that of the United Kingdom earlier this year to become the world's fifth largest.

The state has enjoyed more than eight straight years of employment increases, California's second-longest expansion since World War II. The jobless rate slid to a record low 4.1 percent in September and the state's rural and agricultural areas are seeing historically low unemployment.

Still, California's high cost of living is driving both employers and employees out of state or to cheaper areas within California.

For Richard and Aleshia Murphy, a couple who lives in Lakewood, just south of Los Angeles, the economy was the No. 1 issue that motivated them to vote.

"I want to keep things going," said Richard Murphy, a Republican train operations manager. "My work feels the booming economy. We're hiring more people, all positions, from the bottom to the top."

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TRUMP FACTOR

For about one-third of California voters, President Donald Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their vote. By comparison, 7 out of 10 said Trump was a reason for their vote.

More than 60 percent of the votes cast in California during the 2016 presidential election went for Hillary Clinton.

The state's majority Democrat Legislature, led by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown, has taken a combative stance against Trump and his policies on immigration, health care and the environment.

Opposition to Trump motivated Theresa Hunter of Lake Forest, California, to vote for Democrats.

"I voted blue all the way," said Hunter, a 65-year-old retired salesperson. "He was a cult figure. He was not a leader."

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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 7 out of 10 California voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Another 1 in 5 voters said it was somewhat important.

Californians were casting votes to fill 53 seats in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. Democrats, who hoped to claim 23 seats nationwide to retake the House, were targeting a string of GOP-held districts in California that were carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Four of those seats are completely or partly in Orange County, a one-time GOP stronghold.

Patrick Louie, a government analyst who voted Friday near the California Capitol in Sacramento, said he filled out his ballot this year with the intention of putting a check on Trump.

The 67-year-old Democrat said he doesn't think Congress is doing enough to push back against Trump and that the government is very divided.

"I think it reflects on, not only the Republicans, who I think are more self-interested, as well as the president, who I don't believe has the best interests of the country in his mind," Louie said.

Still, Louie was also pressing for change among the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. He voted for de Leon because the state senator is a generation younger than Feinstein.

"(It's) time to bring a new perspective to the Senate," he said. "I know we're giving up some seniority, but somewhere along the line we have to make the switch. I think this is a good time."

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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 3,670 voters and 611 nonvoters in California 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 1.9 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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For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles, Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco, Sophia Bollag in Sacramento, California, and Amy Taxin in Tustin, California, contributed to this report.

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