WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Associated Press surveyed voters in three of the six states that held Democratic presidential contests on Tuesday. Here’s a snapshot of voters in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi — who they are and what matters to them — based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
Part of the “blue wall” that flipped to Donald Trump in 2016, Michigan is a top general election battleground — and was a major test for both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both men were hoping the results would prove they were best poised to fire up the Democrats that may decide the election in November. Biden came out victorious.
Biden assembled his now-familiar coalition. He won older voters, moderates and women. He showed strength with working-class voters. About 60% of voters in Michigan did not have a college degree, and Biden won the majority of them. He appeared to carry that advantage across race and gender, in the suburbs and cities.
Sanders, meanwhile, failed to expand his coalition or boost turnout among the young people who have powered his campaign. Thirty-seven percent of Michigan voters were under 45. In California and Colorado, states Sanders won last week, the share of those voters was about 45%.
For all Biden's strength, enthusiasm for his bid wasn't overwhelming. Biden's supporters were less likely to say they were very enthusiastic than Sanders', 45% to 60%.
And a significant slice of Democratic voters in Michigan — 19% — said their decision on how to vote in November will depend on who is nominated as the Democratic candidate.
A wide majority — roughly three-quarters — said they think the economic system in this country is unfair. That includes about a third describing it as “very unfair.” Among Michigan voters, Biden was considered the candidate best poised to handle the economy.
New absentee voting rules triggered a surge in early voting in Michigan. AP VoteCast isn't based on in-person interviews conducted on election days; rather, it’s a survey designed to capture opinions regardless of how and when voters choose to cast their ballot.
With the race narrowed to two major candidates, voters’ views about electability came into sharp focus. In Missouri, a Republican-leaning state, Democratic primary voters were more confident in Biden’s chances of beating Trump than Sanders’. That might have helped the former vice president emerge victorious on Tuesday. The Associated Press called Biden the winner when polls closed.
About 40% think Biden definitely could beat Trump, and roughly another 40% say he probably could.
But just about a quarter say Sanders definitely could defeat Trump in November, with about 40% saying he probably could.
Biden bested Sanders among men and women, college graduates and those without a degree, and white and African American voters. He enjoyed a significant advantage among older voters, while Sanders maintained his edge among voters under 45. Moderates and conservatives lined up solidly behind Biden.
While Sanders appeared to lead among liberal voters, many of them — 43% — supported Biden.
Health care, an issue that has intensely divided the field of Democratic candidates this cycle, was named the most important issue facing the country by close to half of primary voters in Missouri. Roughly 2 in 10 considered climate change the top priority, while about 1 in 10 said that of the economy.
Voters divided about evenly over whether Sanders or Biden would be best able to handle health care as president. But on issues related to race, Biden had an advantage over Sanders as the most capable candidate.
A majority of Democratic primary voters in Mississippi were African American, and Biden won them 86% to Sanders' 11%. Biden also led among white voters, across age groups, education levels and ideologies. He was called the winner by The Associated Press.
Mississippi voters wanted a nominee that cares about people like them. Voters there ranked that as as big a priority as selecting a candidate who can beat Trump and exhibit strong leadership. About 9 in 10 primary voters in Mississippi said each of the three qualities was very important in a Democratic nominee, and Biden overwhelmingly won the support of those voters.
Health care was named the most important issue by 40% of voters, but 24% pointed to the economy. About 30% of voters overall described their families as “falling behind” financially, compared with 60% who said they are holding steady and just about 10% “getting ahead.”
Biden was thought to be the candidate best able to handle health care, as well as issues related to race.
About two-thirds of Mississippi voters expressed support for government-paid reparations to African Americans for slavery and racial discrimination, but there was a significant divide by race. About 75% of black voters expressed support, compared with about 40% of white voters.
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 surveys were conducted for seven days, concluding as polls closed.