AP VoteCast: Health care top issue in Virginia

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in Virginia’s Democratic primary ranked health care as the most important issue facing the country, well above climate change, the economy, race relations, foreign policy and many other social issues.

About a third named health care, an issue that has intensely divided the field of Democratic candidates. Roughly 2 in 10 each had climate change and the economy on their minds, according to a wide-ranging AP VoteCast survey of the Democratic primary electorate in Virginia.

The Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner just after the polls closed in Virginia, basing the call on data from VoteCast.

Here’s a snapshot of Democratic voters in Virginia — who they are and how they voted — based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,543 voters, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

DO THEY WANT A BIG CHANGE?

More voters in Virginia’s Democratic primary said they wanted a candidate who would bring fundamental change to Washington, rather than one who would restore the political system to how it was before Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

But change in Washington doesn’t look the same to everyone. About 6 in 10 voters said they preferred a candidate who will pursue practical, centrist policies to one pursuing bold liberal policies.

WHAT ELSE VOTERS WANT

Roughly 8 in 10 said it was very important that a nominee can beat Trump and is a strong leader.

About 7 in 10 said it was very important that a candidate cares about people like them, while about 6 in 10 said the same of one who has the best policy ideas.

Having “the right experience” and being willing to work across the aisle were considered very significant for a Democratic nominee by about 6 in 10 voters.

DIVIDED BY AGE

As in the other primary contests so far, young voters in Virginia were behind Bernie Sanders. Nearly half of those under 30 supported the Vermont senator. But Biden, a former vice president, won about half of voters ages 45 and older, the majority of voters in the state.

DIVIDED BY RACE

Black voters were far more likely to support Biden than any other candidate. Latino voters were slightly more likely to show support for Sanders than for Biden. Among white voters, 4 in 10 supported Biden, while about 2 in 10 went for Sanders and about 1 in 10 each supported former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

LARGELY UNIFIED AGAINST TRUMP

A wide majority say they will definitely vote for the Democratic candidate against Trump in the general election. Still, about a quarter say their decision will depend on which Democrat is on the ballot in November.

PRIMARY PROCESS SKEPTICISM

Voters are skeptical that the Democratic Party’s nomination process is fair. Just about 2 in 10 say they are very confident that the process for selecting a presidential nominee is fair. Roughly a third have little to no confidence, while nearly half say they are somewhat confident.

DEBATING HEALTH CARE

The campaign has featured a contentious debate among candidates over the best way to tackle health care, an issue seen as the most important facing the country by roughly a third of voters.

There is majority support for a government-run health care system for all Americans, with nearly 6 in 10 voters saying they are in favor. Roughly 4 in 10 are opposed.

But support for a public option, where every American could buy into a government-run insurance plan if they wanted to, is even higher. More than 8 in 10 are in favor.

About half of voters are in favor of either proposal, while about a third say they favor a public option but oppose a single-payer system.

CLIMATE CHANGE, THE ECONOMY AND OTHER ISSUES

Roughly 2 in 10 said climate change is the most important issue facing the nation. A wide majority — about 7 in 10 — expressed support for a tax on the use of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas.

About 2 in 10 also called the economy the top issue. But a significant majority described the economic system in this country as unfair. That includes one-quarter who said it’s very unfair.

Small shares of voters considered race relations, immigration, gun policy or abortion most important.

___

AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 2,543 voters in Virginia was conducted for seven days, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The survey combines a random sample of registered voters drawn from the state voter file and self-identified registered voters selected from nonprobability online panels. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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