Exit poll: Bad economy eclipses all for voters

By CONNIE CASS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 1:30 AM

WASHINGTON -- Voters were worried about what's coming next for the economy and felt frustrated with the way President Barack Obama and Congress have been running things. The tide of dismay rolled through groups that are vital to Democrats - women, independents, suburbanites - and swept more of their votes to Republicans.

Despite handing control of House to the GOP, voters surveyed as they left the polls Tuesday seemed annoyed with all things Washington, rating neither the Republicans nor the Democrats favorably.

Overwhelmingly, they are dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, and more than a fourth say they're angry about it. Nearly three-fourths disapprove of Congress, the exit polls show.

"I've never felt so much despair as I do right now," said John Powers, a Bayville, N.J., retiree who voted Republican out of animus toward Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Tapping into the grim national mood, the tea party made a splash. About 4 out of 10 voters endorsed the new movement, although most said it didn't influence how they voted. Those who did use their ballots to send a message about tea partiers were slightly more likely to be signaling support for the movement than opposition.

In contrast, voters were more likely to cast ballots to express opposition to Obama than to support him. More than a third said their House votes were anti-Obama; almost a quarter said they were pro-Obama.

Retiree Arthur Fisher of San Antonio, Texas, says he usually votes Democratic but this time split his ballot to send a message: "There's too much spending, the economy is not getting better. There's too many empty promises."

A slim majority of voters predicted Obama's policies will hurt the country in the long run. Only a third thought the stimulus package Obama championed has helped the economy. Most felt government is trying to do too much.

Voters were divided over the Democrats' health care overhaul, with almost half saying it should be repealed. About the same number thought it should be either kept or expanded.

Among independents, 6 out of 10 disapproved of the job Obama's doing. And independent voters, who favored Democrats in 2006 and 2008, moved decisively to the GOP this time. Suburban voters made the same switch.

The votes of women - who typically tilt Democratic and are vital to the party's fortunes - were almost evenly split between the parties in this midterm year, the exit polls show. Men favored Republican candidates even more decisively than in recent elections.

Across the electorate, the economy eclipsed all other issues.


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