Missouri voters split over country's direction

CHICAGO (AP) — Missouri voters were sharply divided over the state of the nation as they cast ballots in the midterm election, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.

About half of the state's voters said the country is on the right track, while the other half said it's headed the wrong way, AP VoteCast found.

The state's voters did agree on something: they didn't like the way Congress is doing its job — 73 percent said they disapprove.

Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in Missouri, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,930 voters and 664 nonvoters in the state of Missouri — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
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RACE FOR SENATE
Voters ousted incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and elected the state's Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley, to replace her.

Fifty two percent of voters said they held a somewhat or very unfavorable view of McCaskill.

Hawley drew more support from white, male and older voters. Minority voters favored McCaskill, with 91 percent of black voters casting ballots for her.

A majority of Hawley voters — 82 percent — believed the country is headed in the right direction.
Republican retiree Richard Rice, 73, who attended a pro-Hawley rally in Jefferson City Monday, said he supported Hawley because Hawley backs President Donald Trump, whom Rice credits for a booming economy and a better relationship with North Korea.

"He has a sound idea of where we need to go," Rice said of Hawley. "And, I like the fact that he stands up and supports the president."
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TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE
Nearly 3 in 10 voters said health care is the most important issue facing the nation.

The issue was foremost for Dan Stewart, 57, vice president of a human resources company in Columbia. He said he doesn't think any candidate has a good solution for overhauling the way Americans get health insurance.

"I wish someone would say what's causing the high costs," said Stewart, a Republican. "My big fear is that with Obamacare having failed so badly that everyone is going to run to a single-payer system."

Six in 10 Missouri voters said they wanted to see the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law that overhauled the nation's health insurance system, partly or entirely repealed.

Health care was a major theme in Missouri campaign ads. Hawley is among 20 Republican attorney generals who have asked the courts to rule the health care law as unconstitutional.

Other voters cited immigration, the economy, terrorism and the environment as the top issue.
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STATE OF THE ECONOMY
A majority of Missouri voters had a favorable view of the nation's economy.
This summer, Missouri hit its lowest unemployment rate since 2000 but Democrats emphasized the negative effect President Donald Trump's tariffs had on some agricultural prices and manufacturing industries.
Richard Rice's wife, Linda Rice, 68, of Jefferson City, praised Trump for economy and said she planned to support Republicans in the election.
"I think he has our best interests at heart," Linda Rice said of the president.
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TRUMP FACTOR
Six in 10 Missouri voters said Trump influenced their vote, with half saying they voted to support Trump and the other half to oppose him.

Monica Miller, a 53-year-old public school teacher, said racial tensions and the political climate have gotten worse since Trump took office.

"You hope that this is somebody who will rise to the occasion, but your worst fears are realized," Miller said, adding, "name-calling seems to be the norm."

However, 53 percent of the state's voters said they like how Trump is performing.

The president visited Missouri twice in the week before Election Day as he stumped for Hawley.
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CONTROL OF CONGRESS
Tuesday's election will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump's term, and nearly 7 in 10 Missouri voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote.
Matthew J. Smith, a 23-year-old Republican studying at Missouri State University in Springfield, said the idea of Democrats controlling the House worried him.

"If Democrats take over the House, we could see a potential impeachment of the president, for no reason at all," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Deborah Zemke, a 64-year-old children's book author and illustrator from Columbia, said the Republican-led Congress is not doing enough to counter Trump, whose rhetoric she does not like.

"It's essential that we exercise some checks and balances on the current administration," Zemke said.
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STAYING AT HOME
In Missouri, a majority of voters who did not cast a ballot in the midterm were younger than 45, with a wide share — 83 percent —being those who do not have a college degree.
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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 3,926 voters and 664 nonvoters in Missouri 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 http://www.ap.org/votecast.
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Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this story.
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