2010 Elections Exit Poll Analysis: The Political Price of Economic Pain


OBAMA: There was a strong anti-Obama sentiment in the Kentucky electorate: Voters there by a 22-point margin say they were casting their ballot to show opposition to Obama rather than support for him, 40 percent vs. 18 percent. And 63 percent disapproved of Obama's job performance overall, vs. 36 percent who approved.

Dissatisfaction with Obama translated directly into votes for Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, who beat Jack Conway by 81-19 percent among those who disapproved of the job Obama is doing, and by 85-14 percent among those who cast their vote to express opposition to the president.

PARTISANSHIP: There was a higher-than-usual turnout among independents in Kentucky, and fewer Democrats than usual. That helped Paul, who won independents by 58-42 percent and got 91 percent of the Republican vote while Conway got a smaller share of his party's vote, 83 percent.

EXTREME: In a challenge to Paul's popularity, voters divided evenly, 48-48 percent, when asked if Paul's views are too extreme, a line of attack on which Conway focused. Fewer (41 percent) saw Conway as too extreme. But only 15 percent of those who viewed Conway as too extreme vote for him -- while, surprisingly, 27 percent of those who said Paul's views were out of the mainstream backed him anyway.

HEALTH CARE: A 53 percent majority said that the health care plan should be repealed, while 26 percent say it should be expanded and 15 percent said it should be left alone. Paul favors repeal; Conway backs the reform law. Paul won big among the majority of voters who say the health care law should be repealed (84-15 percent). But Conway won among the much smaller proportion of those who say it should be expanded (again 84-15 percent).

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: Fifty-eight percent say government is doing too many things vs. 39 percent say it should do more to solve problems, in line with Paul's argument. Paul won 79-21 percent among voters who think government is doing too many things while those who think government should do more to solve problems favored Conway, but by a smaller margin (74-25 percent).

TEA PARTY: Kentucky voters supported rather than opposed the Tea Party movement ? with which Paul is associated -- by 43-28 percent-with 87 percent of supporters voting for Paul, as did 54 percent of those who view the movement neutrally. Conway won 90-9 percent among the 28 percent who opposed the movement.


OBAMA: Obama had a 45 percent job approval rating in Florida (which he won with 51 percent of the vote in 2008); 53 percent disapproved. GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio swamped his opponents among Obama disapprovers, with 81 percent of the vote, while Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist divided Obama supporters.

ECONOMY: Forty-four percent in Florida said they're financially worse off now than they were two years ago; only 11 percent said they're better off. Sixty-one percent of all worse-off voters backed Rubio -- but he also won among those who said their financial situation was unchanged (45 percent vs. 32 percent for Crist and 21 percent for Meek).

INDEPENDENTS: Crist gambled to run as an independent when it became clear he would lose the GOP primary to Rubio. The incumbent governor lost that bet on Election Day: Independents voted 51 percent for Rubio, 35 percent for Crist, 10 percent for Meek.

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