Pennsylvania voters sour on state of nation

  • By Bernard Condon/The Associated Press

Voters in Pennsylvania made their pick for president while holding negative views about the country’s direction, according to an expansive AP survey of the American electorate.

The race between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden concluded Tuesday as the nation remains in the throes of a global public health crisis and mired in the economic downturn it brought on. AP VoteCast found that 38% of Pennsylvania voters said the U.S. is on the right track and 61% of voters said it is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and what matters to them, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of about 127,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,970 voters and 806 nonvoters in Pennsylvania — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Facing the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has spread through the U.S. for roughly eight months, killing more than 230,000 Americans. Overall, 18% of voters said the virus in the U.S. is completely or mostly under control, and 30% said it’s somewhat under control. Fifty-two percent of voters think the coronavirus is not at all under control in this country.

Biden told supporters on one of his campaign visits to Pennsylvania that Trump is the “worst possible person” to lead the nation during an outbreak. He has called the president reckless for not listening to federal science experts and said he would work with governors on requiring everyone to wear facemasks.

Abby Leafe, a market researcher from Newtown, Pennsylvania, said the coronavirus is a big issue for her this year with her two children attending school just two days a week.

“There’s no parent in the county that hasn’t been affected by the way the coronavirus is being handled,” said Leafe, a 46-year-old Biden supporter. “Living in Pennsylvania, we have such a tremendous responsibility. Anything you read about the election, it’s all going to come down to Pennsylvania.”

The coronavirus is also a top issue for Priti Patel, 58, of Downingtown.

“The whole country I think right now needs a change, basically, more stability,” said Patel, also a Biden supporter.

Trump said many more people would have died of the coronavirus without his ban on travel from China to the U.S. earlier this year. He has called for states to open their economies.

On the issues

The coronavirus pandemic was top of mind for many voters in Pennsylvania. Forty-two percent said it is the most important issue facing the country today.

Voters also considered the economy a major issue, with 28% saying it ranked at the top.

Eight percent named health care, 7% named racism and 4% named law enforcement.

Marjorie Mulvey said she voted for Trump because she admires everything he has done for the country and the stand that Republicans have taken against abortion.

“We’ve been praying a lot,” says the 91-year-old from Harmony, Pennsylvania. “We’ve been committing it to the Lord. God is the one that puts our leaders up or down.”

National economy

Voters were more negative than positive in their assessments of the nation’s economy. Overall, 42% described economic conditions in the U.S. as excellent or good, and 58% called them not so good or poor.

Trump has seized upon Biden’s comments in a presidential debate that the former vice president wants to phase out fossil fuels, a possible hit to natural gas companies in the state. Trump has also said that the damage to lives and livelihoods from strict lockdowns to stop the virus are more damaging than the virus itself.

AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for Fox News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Univision News, USA Today Network, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. The survey of 3,970 voters in Pennsylvania was conducted for eight days, concluding as polls closed. Interviews were conducted in English and 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 1.8 percentage points. Find more details about AP VoteCast’s methodology at

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