WASHINGTON — Joe Biden on Tuesday chipped away at Bernie Sanders’ coalition of young, liberal and Latino voters to secure solid wins in the presidential primaries of Florida and Illinois.
With concerns growing about the spread of the new coronavirus, more Florida and Illinois voters said they trusted the former vice president on health care issues than the Vermont senator. They also expressed more confidence that Biden could successfully challenge President Donald Trump in November’s general election.
Most Democratic voters in Florida, Arizona and Illinois said they have anxieties about contracting the COVID-19, but their worries are notably measured considering the pandemic that has all-but shuttered public life across the U.S.
About 4 in 10 voters in the primary election in Florida and roughly a third in Arizona and Illinois said they are “very” concerned that they or a family member may get infected with COVID-19. About 40% of voters in each state felt somewhat concerned, according to AP VoteCast surveys of thousands of Americans voting in the presidential primaries.
In just a few weeks, the coronavirus has upended that race, the global economy and Americans’ daily routines, as government officials have closed schools, warned against travel, shuttered restaurants and advised millions of workers to stay home.
Ohio chose to halt in-person voting on Tuesday and delay its primary to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Illinois, Florida and Arizona went ahead, instituting some new safety measures for voters and poll workers.
AP VoteCast surveys are designed to capture voters’ views regardless of when or how they voted, accounting for the many voters in Florida and Arizona who voted early. Here’s a snapshot of voters’ priorities and concerns as they cast their ballots:
Sanders’ Latino support erodes
Sanders has enjoyed a foundation of support from voters under 30 and Latinos, but that foundation showed some cracks in Florida.
Latinos were roughly 20% of the state’s Democratic voters — 22% of them identified as Cuban, 33% as Puerto Rican and the rest had family ties to other countries. Not only did Biden win Latinos in Florida, he got 65% of Puerto Ricans and 56% of Cubans, taking away a pillar of strength from Sanders.
In Illinois, Latinos were closely divided between the two leading candidates.
Biden’s big tent
Biden, 77, preserved his strength among African Americans in Florida and Illinois. He also won women, voters over 45 and moderates and conservatives, groups that make up majorities of Democratic primary voters.
It was close to a demographic sweep, with Biden also drawing support from the cities, suburbs and small towns; Protestants, Catholics and Jews; and voters with a college degree and those without. In Florida, he even won liberals, getting 53% to Sanders’ 37%.
Young voters stand out as still somewhat wary of Biden. Sanders, 78, maintained a modest edge among young voters in Florida, where about half of those under 30 supported him.
Sanders got about two-thirds of those voters in Illinois. But voters 30 through 44 there split between him and Biden.
Handling health care
Distress about the coronavirus was spread evenly across gender, education and income levels. But voters under 45 were somewhat less likely than their older counterparts to worry about getting infected.
The outbreak feeds into pre-existing concerns about the health care system in the U.S. Democratic voters have for weeks named health care as a top issue of concern and that remained true in Arizona, Florida and Illinois.
Biden has made improving Obamacare a cornerstone of his agenda, while Sanders has campaigned on the promise of the government providing universal health coverage.
Democratic primary voters in Florida, a state with both a large population of retirees and many younger tourism and service sector workers, believe that Biden would be better than Sanders at handling health care issues, 56% to 34%.
Arizona and Illinois voters are closely divided between the two candidates on the issue.
The full brunt of the economic damage from the coronavirus hasn’t hit, but the surveys reveal most Democratic voters already felt on shaky ground. Few — only about 10% in Arizona, Florida and Illinois — said they were getting ahead financially in what has been the longest expansion in U.S. history.
Roughly two-thirds in each state think they are “holding steady,” while about a quarter describe themselves as falling behind.
Overwhelming majorities in all three states — 80% in Arizona and about 70% in Florida and Illinois — describe the country’s economic system as unfair. Roughly 40% in Arizona, and about a third in Florida and Illinois, called it “very unfair.”
Poised for November
Biden is widely seen as the strongest contender against Trump.
About 80% of voters in Arizona, Florida and Illinois think the former vice president could definitely or probably win the general election. Smaller majorities in each state — roughly 60% — have the same confidence in a Sanders victory.
Opposition to Trump is a defining trait of Democratic primary voters. In Florida and Illinois, around three-quarters said they would vote for whomever the party nominates to take on Trump. That figure is somewhat more, 81%, in Arizona.
Some in each of the states — 9% in Arizona, 13% in Illinois and 15% in Florida — say they would vote for Biden, but not Sanders. Somewhat fewer — 6% in Arizona, 8% in Illinois and 5% in Florida — say they would vote for Sanders, but not Biden.
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 surveys were conducted for seven days, concluding as polls closed.