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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / People wait to cast their ballots at Mountain Creek Church of Christ on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

If there's one thing Chattanooga area voters agree on, it's that they're ready to move past a divisive and exhausting political season and feel united.

"I'm hopeful the results will come out and everybody will get back to work and start being Americans instead of this whole divided nation and riots and everything," said Randy Crittenden, a small business owner who voted for President Donald Trump in East Brainerd on Tuesday.

Richard West agrees, but he said the president is at the heart of much of the division and has to go if the country is going to come together.

"He's just divisive and doesn't make any attempt to bring anyone together," said West, who voted for Joe Biden on Tuesday in Glenwood. "The COVID-19 [pandemic] is a fine example. Had he come out and been up front and forthcoming in the beginning, we wouldn't have lost over 200,000 people."

(LIVE: 2020 election results)

In a poll of 266 area voters at about 18 polling locations during early voting and on Election Day, local residents were split on issues ranging from the handling of the coronavirus crisis to the question of who should lead the country forward.

"I think there's going to be a bunch of recounts," said Keith Shadwick, who voted for Trump in East Brainerd on Tuesday. "It's so close when you look at the polls. Neither side is going to be happy."

About the survey

To assess voter opinions, the Times Free Press surveyed 266 Hamilton County voters from across the county at all four early voting places last week and at 18 voting precincts selected to represent the entire county on election day Tuesday. Voters were questioned by staffers from the newspaper outside the polls about a variety of public policy issues. The results are expected to have an error rate of plus or minus 6% with a 95% confidence level.

When it comes to the difference between the national and local landscape, area voters tended to see Hamilton County as moving in a better direction than the country overall. About 32% said the country is heading in the right direction, while nearly 65% said Hamilton County is going the right way.

"I think I have a little bit more control, and I know people in this area," said Esterrell Evans, who voted for Biden on Tuesday in East Brainerd. "I'm not as afraid of what might happen around here."

About half of voters said local regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are appropriate, while about 37% said they weren't strict enough.

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Loretta Nunn, who voted for Biden in Orchard Knob on Tuesday morning, said she gets frustrated seeing people still not wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines.

"These masks do a lot," she said. "If you don't believe me, just keep running around without one on. The mask protects me and you."

Nunn was among the 62% of voters who said they don't trust the information coming from the White House about the coronavirus, though she approves of the local response.

"I think Chattanooga did a great job responding, especially with all the free testing, the free masks and with making it easier for people to get out and get tested," she said.

 

Survey snapshot

About 32% of local voters said the country is heading in the right direction, while nearly 65% said Hamilton County is going the right way.

About half of voters said local regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are appropriate, while about 37% said they weren’t strict enough.

About 62% of voters said they don’t trust the information coming from the White House about the coronavirus, while 22% said they don’t trust the information coming from the CDC.

About 43% of local voters said the coronavirus has negatively affected their personal finances, while nearly 53% said they had not seen any negative financial fallout from the crisis.

About 24% of voters said they think race relations are getting worse in Hamilton County, while about half said they are staying the same. About 16% said they think race relations are improving locally.

About 43% of local voters said the coronavirus has negatively affected their personal finances, while nearly 53% said they had not seen any negative financial fallout from the crisis.

Ms. Taylor from Psychic Readings by Ms. Taylor off Brainerd Road voted Tuesday at a precinct in Brainerd with her husband, an RV salesman. She said they have both seen an increase in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"People want to know about their job, finances and careers," she said. "People are going through a lot of hardships."

Ms. Taylor, who declined to give her first name, said she voted for Trump.

"Who I feel is going to win is who I voted for," she said. "I'm excited but also scared for the outcome and how people are going to react."

Concerns about the fallout of the election and the potential for violence are on his mind as well, Crittenden said.

"I don't think that will happen in Chattanooga. Maybe in bigger cities, but not Chattanooga or Knoxville," he said, and then paused. "Well, I certainly hope it won't."

The level of conflict she sees among her neighbors and colleagues on social media prompted her to back away from Facebook, said Evans, who worked for 37 years at EPB.

"I was shocked by some of the people I thought I knew well," Evans said. "A lot of it was about Obama, how vicious people were about Obama and how much support for Trump. It's a viciousness, a hatred. There's no middle ground for people."

Photo Gallery

Chattanooga area voters

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West, who works for the city of Chattanooga, had a similar experience, he said.

"It has opened my eyes as to what some of my so-called friends believe, because if you can listen to the things that man says and still believe what he says, you have to be somewhat like him," West said. "The divisiveness, supporting hate groups, that's not the answer. I'm looking for a leader who's willing to unite."

About 24% of voters said they think race relations are getting worse in Hamilton County, while about half said they are staying the same. About 16% said they think race relations are improving locally.

At a polling location in Lookout Valley, Chris Pratt said he was struck by how much of a racial problem there is locally.

"The racism in this city makes me very ashamed," said Pratt, who cast his vote for Biden. "I hope that changes soon."

Staff writers Allison Collins, Ben Benton and Wyatt Massey contributed to this story.

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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