TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Despite optimism about the economy, most Wisconsin voters in Tuesday's midterm election feared the nation is heading downhill amid worries about health care and other issues, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.
Of the state's voters casting ballots for governor, U.S. Senate and members of Congress, 56 percent described the country as on the wrong track while 42 percent said things are going in the right direction, AP VoteCast found.
Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in Wisconsin, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 4,709 voters and 579 nonvoters in the state of Wisconsin — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
RACE FOR GOVERNOR
Democrat Tony Evers unseated two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker with a big boost from younger voters. Those under age 45 made up only one-third of the electorate but gave Evers 60 percent of their votes to 37 percent for Walker, who carried older voters by 54 percent to 45 percent.
Evers also won handily among college graduates, while those without a college degree preferred Walker.
Women preferred Evers by 53 percent to 45 percent, while Walker won among men, 52 percent to 46 percent. Although Walker appeared to have a slight edge among white voters, it wasn't enough to overcome Evers' 9-to-1 support among blacks.
While Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly backed their party's nominees, Evers prevailed among the crucial 13 percent who identified themselves as independents and moderates.
Sam Schmidt, 28, a Republican accountant from West Allis, said he voted for Walker because of what the governor has done to bring jobs to Wisconsin.
"I'm a big fan of the Foxconn acquisition," he said, referring to the deal to get the Taiwan-based electronics giant to build a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. "I heard that some of the Democratic nominees would've tried to shoot it down and so that was a big deal in my vote."
Evers voter Stephenie Hamen, a 42-year-old artist from Sun Prairie, criticized Walker for cutting school funding while giving businesses tax breaks. She said she was especially unhappy that he voiced support for health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions while authorizing a lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees such coverage.
"Scott Walker has done nothing for our state," Hamen said. "It's time for a change."
RACE FOR SENATE
Younger voters also were decisive in the re-election of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who was backed by nearly two-thirds of the under-45 age group. Republican challenger Leah Vukmir fared better with older voters, but even they were about evenly divided.
Voters with a college education favored Baldwin by a solid 60 percent to 40 percent, while narrowly carrying voters without a college degree.
Baldwin backer Danielle Moehring, 27, a scientist from Madison, said he believed the incumbent would protect health insurance guarantees for people with pre-existing conditions. Tony Merfeld, a 30-year-old Madison salesman, cast a straight Democratic ballot, praising Baldwin's positions on immigration and women's rights.
"She's the first openly gay person to serve in the Senate, and that's a hugely important point of pride," said Amy Franklin Bailey, 42, a Democrat from Green Bay. "Once upon a time, we were known as this progressive state. Her election was a testimony to that."
Vukmir's opposition to abortion drew support from Linda Phillips, 60, a nurse practitioner from West Allis.
"I think we have to especially protect life," Phillips said, adding that Vukmir was "more responsible and just a decent human being. She's also a fellow nurse."
TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE
About twice as many Wisconsin residents labeled health care the top challenge facing the nation as those choosing any other issue. More than one-third said it was their primary concern.
"Everyone has a right to health care," said Abigail Walls, 31, a disabled resident of West Allis. "It is a basic human right to be able to, if you are sick, go to a doctor, get the medicines you need, get the care you need and not have to be saddled with a bill that's hundreds of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Schmidt said having government provide health care for everyone would be "jumping the line."
"Why would you force anyone to buy anything?" he said.
Meanwhile, 19 percent of voters considered immigration the top issue while 17 percent chose the economy and jobs, while smaller numbers picked the environment and gun policy.
By a 54-to-45 percent majority, voters supported raising taxes to boost public school funding in Wisconsin.
STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Wisconsin voters had a positive view of the nation's economic prospects, with about two thirds saying it's in good shape while one third said it's going poorly.
Walker supporters credited his policies such as lowering taxes and expanding broadband statewide, as well as the Foxconn deal.
"I think Wisconsin's doing well so why not continue," Schmidt said.
Walker opponents said his easing of environmental regulations and other financial incentives for Foxconn and other financial incentives could be long-run losers for the state economy.
"We're going to gain jobs but ... it will end up hurting," said Don Edlund, 66, a retired lab worker from Sun Prairie.
About six in 10 voters said their feelings about President Donald Trump influenced their votes, while about four in 10 said he wasn't a factor.
Schmidt praised Trump's attempts to renegotiate trade agreements with other countries, saying existing pacts with Mexico and China "have been kind of one-sided where they would win all the trades."
Nicole Hassett, a 38-year-old waitress and single mother from Sun Prairie, said anger with Trump was a big reason for her straight Democratic ticket vote.
"I'm tired of his lies. He's manipulative," Hassett said.
CONTROL OF CONGRESS
Tuesday's elections will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump's first term in office, and about two-thirds of Wisconsin voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. About one-quarter of the voters said it was somewhat important.
Bailey said she previously voted for a Republican member of Congress because he had seniority and could benefit his district. But with House Republicans putting up no resistance to Trump, she said, that was no longer an option.
"These guys have sold their souls for whatever reason to be identified with this Trump part of the Republican Party," she said.
STAYING AT HOME
In Wisconsin, nearly seven in 10 of the registered voters who didn't participate in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote did not have a college degree. Of the nonvoters, about as many were Democrats as were Republicans.
Associated Press reporters Ivan Moreno in Milwaukee and Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond in Madison contributed to this story.
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 4,709 voters and 579 nonvoters in Wisconsin 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 1.8 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.