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Election 2010


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Originally published Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 3:01 PM

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Exit poll: Voters focus on economic woes, Obama

Voters' views of Tuesday's elections, according to a national exit poll conducted for The Associated Press:

The Associated Press

Voters' views of Tuesday's elections, according to a national exit poll conducted for The Associated Press:

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THE ECONOMY OVERSHADOWS EVERYTHING

Vast numbers expressed concern about the economy, and those who did leaned decisively toward Republican House candidates.

Over 6 in 10 named the economy as the country's top problem, with no other issue coming close. Nearly 9 in 10 said the economy is in bad shape and expressed concern about its condition over the next year - and these people largely voted GOP. Anguish over the economy was similar in 2008, and Barack Obama rode that discontent to the presidency. On Tuesday, roughly 4 in 10 said their family's financial condition has worsened under Obama and they tilted heavily Republican. About 6 in 10 said the country is on the wrong track.

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THE PRESIDENT DRAWS FROWNS ...

Just over half disapproved of how Obama is handling his job, and similar numbers expected his policies to hurt the country. More than a third of voters considered their vote Tuesday to be an expression of opposition to Obama; only about a quarter said their vote was meant to voice support for him. One potential warning sign as Obama considers a 2012 re-election bid: Independents backed him solidly in 2008 but disapproved of his job performance by almost 3-2 on Tuesday, and most said his policies are hurting the country. Another signal of his diminished sheen: Despite the president's campaign-trail pleas, barely any first-time voters showed up at the polls on Tuesday. In 2008 about 1 in 10 voters were new and they strongly backed Obama.

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... AND CONGRESS DOES EVEN WORSE

About 3 in 4 expressed disapproval of how Congress is doing its job, including almost half who voiced strong disapproval. Nearly two-thirds of these voters backed Republicans. Underscoring a broad dissatisfaction with politicians, just over half voiced negative views of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

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IT'S A TEA PARTY

Roughly 4 in 10 voters consider themselves supporters of the conservative tea party, and they overwhelmingly voted Republican. In another measure of who was motivated to vote Tuesday, people considering themselves conservative outnumbered liberals by 2-1. That was a wider margin than in the 2008 presidential and the 2006 midterm elections but similar to 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress. Overall Tuesday, more than 1 in 5 voters considered their vote a message of support for the tea party while a bit fewer said their vote signaled opposition. Most said the tea party wasn't a factor in their vote.

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A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENTS - FOR REPUBLICANS

The GOP won the fight for support from unaffiliated voters. Almost 6 in 10 independents backed Republican candidates - a big turnaround from 2008 and 2006, when they leaned solidly Democratic, but reminiscent of the 1994 GOP takeover. Independents strongly think the country is on the wrong track and have firmly negative views about the government's performance.

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WHAT WOMEN WANT

Women have tilted Democratic for the last two decades, but Tuesday they were about evenly split between the two parties. That was disastrous news for Democrats, who decisively lost the battle for males. Men divided their votes about evenly in 2008 and 2006, but leaned heavily Republican in 1994. Highlighting their disappointment, women - who favored Obama in 2008 by 13 percentage points - were about evenly divided Tuesday over the job he's doing as president and whether his policies will help or hurt the U.S.

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GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES ...

Republicans carried voters age 40 and up, split 30-somethings and lost those who are younger. Almost 6 in 10 voters age 65 and up backed Republicans, a stronger margin than they gave GOP presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. About the same number in the under-30 crowd voted Democratic on Tuesday - more modest support than they gave Obama two years ago. Another noticeable contrast: Those over age 65 outnumbered the youngest group by about 2-1 on Tuesday. In 2008 the two groups' numbers were more even.

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... AND REGIONAL ONES

Only in the East did more people decisively back Democrats. Voters in the West were split closely. In 2008 and 2006, the South was the only region to vote Republican, but this year it was joined by the Midwest in solidly backing the GOP.

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RACE PLAYS A ROLE

About 6 in 10 white voters backed GOP candidates, with Republicans winning overwhelmingly among both white men and white women. White men usually back Republicans, but white women are usually more closely contested. Even whites under age 30 - who strongly backed Obama in 2008 and Democrats in 2006 - tipped slightly toward the GOP this year. Democrats got solid backing from minorities, including about a 2-1 edge with Hispanics.

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SWING GROUPS SWING GOP

Suburban voters - about half the electorate - were divided about evenly in 2008 and 2006, but they clearly backed Republicans on Tuesday. Two other groups that are usually closely contested - white Catholics and whites earning under $50,000 annually - leaned GOP, an improvement for Republicans over 2008 and 2006.

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TARGET: GOVERNMENT

About 3 in 4 voters expressed negative views about how the federal government is working, including about 1 in 4 saying they are just plain angry about it. Of this dissatisfied group, almost two-thirds voted Republican. Only about 4 in 10 want the government to do more to solve problems, while over half say the government should let businesses and individuals handle more things on their own.

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THE ISSUES THAT AWAIT

Given three choices, about 4 in 10 want Congress to focus on reducing the federal deficit while nearly as many prefer spending to create jobs. Tax cuts finished last. Overall, about 4 in 10 want to continue all the broad tax cuts that were approved under President George W. Bush, including reductions for people earning at least $250,000 annually. About an equal number want to let the cuts expire for the wealthiest earners, while some want to let them expire for everyone. Close to half want to repeal the health care overhaul Obama enacted this year, while about the same number want to expand it even further or leave it in place.

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THE STIMULUS STINGS

Voters were divided about equally into three camps over whether Obama's $814 billion economic stimulus measure had helped the economy, hurt it or made no difference. While those who liked the stimulus voted overwhelmingly Democratic on Tuesday, the other two groups strongly backed Republicans.

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The preliminary results are from a survey that Edison Research conducted for The Associated Press and television networks with 18,132 voters nationwide. This included interviews with 16,531 voters Tuesday in a random sample of 268 precincts nationally. In addition, landline and cellular telephone interviews were conducted Oct. 22 to 31 with 1,601 people who voted early or absentee. There is a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1 percentage point for the entire sample, higher for subgroups.

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