Republican Mitch McConnell has defeated Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, in the closely watched race for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. McConnell could be in line to become the Senate’s majority leader if Republicans flip enough seats. Here are some highlights of voters’ views in Kentucky from preliminary findings from exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks:
MCCONNELL STRENGTHS: Two out of three white male voters preferred McConnell, and three in five in their 40s; people over 65; and those who make over $100,000 annually also went for the Republican. Three in four voters who say the economy is getting worse preferred McConnell, but he made gains with Kentuckians who live in suburbs.
GRIMES STRENGTHS: Grimes enjoyed near-unanimous support from black voters and nearly three in five workers who earn less than $30,000 also favored the Democrat. Grimes campaigned for an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay for women workers, but she split women voters with McConnell, and the Republican had an edge among independent women. Voters angry about Republican leaders in Congress also favored Grimes, as well as those who are strongly opposed to the Tea Party.
THE OBAMA EFFECT: Voters in Kentucky expressed less dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership in Congress than they did with the Obama administration — 6 in 10 had a negative take on Obama, a smaller majority said so about the GOP leadership. More than half of voters said they disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president. McConnell was frequently critical of the president on the campaign trail, and ran TV ads tying Grimes to the White House. One in four said they felt angry about the Obama administration, and about nine out of 10 of those voters went for McConnell.
COAL AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Environmental regulations divide voters in the state, with about half saying environmental regulations go far enough already and half saying the government ought to do more to protect the environment. A drastic drop in mine production in eastern Kentucky’s coal industry in recent years has been attributed in part to tougher environmental enforcement by the federal government, and McConnell frequently criticized the effect on the region’s economy during the campaign.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Kentucky voters were evenly split on whether the 2010 health care overhaul went too far or was about right (a quarter felt each way) but more, nearly half, said the law went too far. Kentucky has had one of the nation’s most successful rollouts of its exchange, registering more than 400,000 for health care during its first open enrollment period. Most said the state’s exchange, kynect was working at least somewhat well.
MOOD OF VOTERS: Nine in 10 Kentucky voters said which party controls the U.S. Senate was an important factor in their vote. Grimes is viewed unfavorably by a narrow majority of voters. About half of voters said they were contacted on McConnell’s behalf, 4 in 10 on Grimes’s behalf. More people said Grimes is too liberal compared to those who believe McConnell is too conservative. Half said both candidates attacked each other unfairly during the campaign. Four out of five voters say they are conservative or moderate. Asked about a presidential run by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a majority say he would not make a good president.
The preliminary exit poll of 2,362 Kentucky voters was conducted for AP and the other media outlets by Edison Research in a random sample of 40 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.