AP finds Florida voters divided on state of nation

MIAMI – Voters casting midterm election ballots in Florida are divided over the state of the nation, 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 slightly less than 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.

Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in Florida, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 138,000 voters and nonvoters - including 3,740 voters and 679 nonvoters in the battleground state of Florida - conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Race for governor

Democrat Andrew Gillum had a sizable advantage over Republican Ron DeSantis among voters under 45 in the race for governor. Voters ages 45 and older were divided.

Black voters and Hispanic voters were more likely to support Gillum. White voters overall modestly supported DeSantis.

Whites without a college degree were more likely to support DeSantis. Conversely, white college graduates were split.

The race was one of the most closely watched in the country. Both candidates began the year as underdogs against better-known and better-funded opponents.

DeSantis ran a largely negative campaign, accusing his opponent of corruption and being a failed mayor. President Donald Trump visited Florida twice in the final six days of the election to help build turnout for DeSantis.

Gillum, seeking to become Florida's first black governor, ran a largely positive campaign while promising to expand health care, protect the environment and raise corporate taxes to boost education spending.

Race for Senate

In the race for Senate, Republican Rick Scott had an apparent advantage over Democrat Bill Nelson among white voters. Whites with a college education were divided, and whites without a college degree were more likely to favor Scott.

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

Voters under 45 preferred Nelson; those ages 45 and older were split.

Scott, the incumbent governor, made the race the toughest for Nelson since he won office in 2000. Scott pumped more than $60 million of his own money into the campaign heading into the final week of campaigning.

Top issues

Voters considered several issues to be important to their vote in this midterm election, including health care (one quarter), immigration (one quarter), the economy (2 in 10), gun policy (1 in 10) and the environment (1 in 10).

"Gun violence prevention is such an important issue to me," said Adam Alhanti, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland when the shooting massacre occurred there in February. "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."

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.

Trump factor

For a third of Florida voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. By comparison, a quarter said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and 4 in 10 said they voted to express opposition to Trump.
A majority of voters in Florida had negative views of Trump: Slightly more than half said they disapprove of how he is handling his job as president, while less than half said they approve of Trump.
Anjenys Gonzalez of Miami voted for Gillum and for the re-election of Nelson. 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 did not play any reason in 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 will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump's first term in office, and 7 in 10 percent of Florida voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Another 2 in 10 percent 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 (one third) as Republicans.

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 3,740 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 ap.org/votecast.