COVID-19 top issue for US voters as pandemic rages, survey says

The pandemic weighs heavy on voters’ minds, many of whom say they are voting based on President Trump’s leadership.

People line up to vote, on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020, in Honolulu, Hawaii, US [Marco Garcia/AP Photo] (AP Photo)
People line up to vote, on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020, in Honolulu, Hawaii, US [Marco Garcia/AP Photo] (AP Photo)

With the coronavirus surging again, voters ranked the pandemic and the economy as top concerns in the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.

Voters were especially likely to call the public health crisis the nation’s most important issue, with the economy following close behind.

Fewer named healthcare, racism, law enforcement, immigration or climate change.

After eight months and at least 232,000 deaths, the candidates faced a dissatisfied electorate. Many voters said they have been personally affected by the virus. Roughly six in 10 said the country is going in the wrong direction.

Trump walks to the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, DC, on his way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be treated for COVID-19 in early October [File: Sarah Silbiger /Pool/EPA]
The survey found that Trump’s leadership loomed large in voters’ decision-making. Nearly two-thirds of voters said their vote was about Trump – either for him or against him.

Here is a snapshot of who voted and what matters to them, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 127,000 voters and non-voters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Facing the pandemic

About four in 10 voters said the coronavirus pandemic is the top issue facing the nation. Roughly three in 10 called the economy and jobs most important. Trump, who has been criticised for his administration’s response to the pandemic, sought to focus his campaign on the pre-pandemic economy.

Biden promised to reverse course on Trump’s “surrender” to the coronavirus at an Iowa campaign rally before election day.

“It’s very easy to be critical after we look back,” Republican strategist Janelle King told Al Jazeera, who defended the president’s handling of the pandemic.

She said Trump “acted very swiftly” by shutting down US borders to try to contain a virus that swept the country – and the world – without warning.

“He did that because he knew he had to protect the people here in America and I’m happy for that,” King said.

Voters were more likely to think the government should prioritise limiting the spread of the coronavirus – even if it damages the economy – than to say the economy should be the top priority.

Roughly half of voters said the coronavirus situation in the US is not at all under control. About six in 10 voters said the economy is in poor shape, while about four in 10 said economic conditions are excellent or good.

From lost jobs and income to missed milestones, voters felt the impact of the pandemic personally as the coronavirus swept the country.

A forecast of electoral outcomes for US states on Election Day [Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera]
An overwhelming majority of voters said the coronavirus pandemic has affected them personally. About four in 10 said their household lost a job or income. Roughly half said they missed out on a major event, and about two in 10 said that a close friend or family member died from the virus.

Voters see their financial situations as holding steady despite the fragile economy. About seven in 10 said their personal finances are stable; roughly two in 10 said they are falling behind. Just about one in 10 said they are getting ahead financially.

Turnout

Voters did not stay on the sidelines, with experts predicting total votes will exceed the 139 million cast in 2016. About 101 million people voted ahead of election day.

Roughly three-quarters said they have known all along who they were supporting in this election.

Voters arrive with masks in light of COVID-19 health concerns at Warren E Bow Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan [Paul Sancya/AP Photo]
Voters were measured in their confidence that the vote count would be accurate – despite Trump seeking to sow doubts about the integrity of the vote count.

About a quarter of voters said they were very confident that the votes in the election will be counted accurately, while four in 10 were somewhat confident. Roughly three in 10 said they were not confident in an accurate vote count.

Racial Unrest

After a summer of protests and sometimes violent clashes over racial inequality in policing, about half of voters call racism a “very serious” problem in US society. Roughly three in 10 say it is somewhat serious; about two in 10 say it is not a serious problem. Similar numbers call racism a serious problem in policing in this country.

About a third of voters said police in the US are too tough on crime; fewer – about a quarter – said police are not tough enough. About four in 10 think police handle crime appropriately.

But compared with the pandemic and the economy, relatively few voters – about one in 10 – deemed racism or law enforcement the country’s top issue. Even fewer, four percent, called law enforcement the most important.

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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