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New poll finds voter anger drove results of Mass. election

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The Washington Post's Dan Balz talks about a new poll that explains what could have driven the upset election of Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown.

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Voters for Coakley, by contrast, cited the need to cover the uninsured and fix the health-care system as the main reasons the issue drove their votes.

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Massachusetts enacted a universal health-care plan several years ago, and the survey shows that it remains highly popular. Overall, 68 percent of the voters in Tuesday's election say they support the plan, including slightly more than half of those voting for Brown.

Obama also remains popular in Massachusetts. More than six in 10 of those who voted approve of his job performance, with 92 percent of Coakley's voters expressing satisfaction, along with 33 percent of Brown's. More than half of Brown's backers say Obama was not a factor in their vote.

But the Obama administration's policies draw some fire, with nearly half of all special-election voters either dissatisfied or angry about those initiatives. Three-quarters of Brown's supporters expressed the negative view.

Despite the resistance to the Democratic agenda, Obama signaled Friday that he will continue to fight for his policies, including health care. Speaking in Elyria, Ohio, the president acknowledged that he had run into "a buzz saw" of opposition. "I didn't take this up to boost my poll numbers," he said. He added, "And I'm not going to walk away just because it's hard."

GOP policies prove even less popular, with 58 percent of Massachusetts voters saying they are dissatisfied or angry about what Republicans in Congress are offering. Among those voting for Brown, 60 percent give positive marks to the policies of congressional Republicans, but a sizable number, 37 percent, offer a negative appraisal.

The Massachusetts election brought another indication that the Obama coalition from 2008 has splintered, just as the results in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey showed in November.

Compared with the 2008 presidential results, Coakley suffered significant erosion among whites, independents and working-class voters, according to the survey.

In Massachusetts, independents made up about half of Tuesday's electorate, according to the poll, and they supported Brown by nearly 2 to 1. Obama carried Bay State independents by 17 percentage points in 2008. Among those voting for Brown, 28 percent said they backed Obama over Republican John McCain.

Tuesday's competitive election caught many poll-watchers by surprise, with news interest in the campaign peaking too late to organize an exit poll of voters on Election Day. The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted this poll to provide a more complete picture of the stated motivations of special-election voters.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta and special consultant Mike Mokrzycki contributed to this report.


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