- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

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.

Joe Biden was the winner in the state.

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 2,604 voters, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

DO THEY WANT A BIG CHANGE?



Voters in Virginia’s Democratic primary were closely divided over whether they want a candidate who would bring fundamental change to Washington or one who would restore the political system to how it was before Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

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.

LATE DECIDERS

Nearly half of Democratic primary voters in Virginia say they made up their minds just days before casting their ballots. Biden was aided significantly, with about two-thirds of those voters supporting his candidacy.

DIVIDED BY RACE

Black voters were far more likely to support Biden than any other candidate. Similar shares of Latino voters backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Biden. Among white voters, about half supported Biden, while about 2 in 10 went for Sanders and about 1 in 10 each supported Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg dropped out of the race on Wednesday.

DIVIDED BY AGE

As in the primary contests so far, young voters in Virginia were behind Sanders. About half of those under 30 supported the Vermont senator. But Biden won about two-thirds of voters ages 45 and older, the majority of voters in the state.

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 want to, is even higher. More than 8 in 10 are in favor.

About half 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.

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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 2,604 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.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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