That's what I spent my morning doing, sifting through the national exit poll in search of clues about the present state of the American electorate. The seven numbers that jumped out at me are below. You can look through the exit poll yourself here. These are in no particular order other than the order I found them in.
* 4. That's the margin that Democrats beat Republicans by among women in the national House vote. That's a significant decline from President Obama's winning margins among females (+11 in 2012, +13 in 2008) although it's an improvement from the 2010 midterms when Democrats actually lost the women's vote by a point. Still, the massive focus by Democratic candidates across the country on the supposed "war on women" being conducted by the GOP quite clearly didn't convince large numbers of female voters to abandon the GOP. Assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, the historic nature of her candidacy as the first female presidential nominee may erase any doubts about a shrinking gender gap edge for Democrats. But, in midterm elections at least, women are simply not an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency.
* 62. That's the percentage of the vote for Democrats among those who said they "never" attend any sort of religious services; Republicans won just 36 percent among that same group. Compare that to the 18-point edge Republicans enjoyed over Democrats among those who go to some sort of religious service weekly and you see that one's religiosity continues to be one of the most reliable predictors of how you'll vote. Consider yourself a religious person or, at least, someone who attends religious services regularly? There's a strong likelihood you are voting Republican. Not a church-goer? You are voting Democratic.
* 54. A majority of Americans who went to the polls on Nov. 4 believe that the "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals" while just 41 percent think "the government should do more to solve problems." Those numbers suggest that the long-running battle over what government can and should do (and how much it should do) is tilting back toward the smaller-is-better crowd that dominated in the mid and late 1990s. The early years of Obama's presidency were defined by a belief that government might need to do more than it had during the latter days of the Bush presidency. (Think Hurricane Katrina.) But the pendulum is in the process of swinging back to the government-shrinkage folks.
* 79. Along the lines of how people feel about their government is this number, which represents the percentage of people who say you can only "sometimes" (60 percent) or "never" (18 percent) trust the government in Washington "to do what is right." That's absolutely stunning. Some of that number is attributable to a Republican-flavored electorate and the natural suspicion among many within the GOP of the federal government -- particularly when it's run by a Democratic president. But, the number is so high that it's hard not to see the problems surrounding the IRS, the VA and, of course, the NSA spying revelations as part of that deepening distrust among broad swaths of the American public.
* 48. That's the percentage of people who said same-sex marriage should be legal in their state, the same number that said it should be illegal. That even split is a significant break from most polling on the issue; Gallup's last poll -- conducted in May 2014 -- showed 55 percent of Americans supporting same sex marriage while 42 percent opposed it. What explains the discrepancy? Maybe the difference between asking whether same sex marriage should be legal in YOUR state versus asking whether, more broadly, about its legality. Or maybe that people are less willing to tell someone over the phone what the really feel about a divisive social issue than in person? (That seems odd.) Maybe the difference between "legal" (the exit poll language) and "valid" (Gallup's language)?
* 75. Three quarters of the 2014 electorate was white (and they voted for Republicans by 22 points) on Nov. 4. That might seem like great news for Republicans. It's not. Whites comprised 77 percent of the 2010 electorate -- and the decline in whites as a percentage of the overall electorate is happening in presidential cycles too.
While change is the only certainty in politics, the trend lines on the white vote seem clear -- and suggest the need for Republicans to significantly diversify their coalition.
* 53. A majority of voters who identified as "moderates" (four in every ten voters three Tuesdays ago) voted for Democrats. Republicans got 45 percent of the moderate vote. That's a good reminder that a) "moderate" does not equal "independent" (Republicans won "independents" by 12 points) and b) this election was not decided by "the middle", it was decided by the Republican base or, put another way, the no-show of the Democratic base.