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

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PRIORITIES: Roughly equal numbers of Pennsylvanians thought Congress' highest priority should be to reduce the budget deficit (38 percent) vs. to create jobs (35 percent) -- and deficit voters voted for Toomey (66-34 percent) while jobs voters voted for Sestak, 79-21 percent. The 21 percent who instead thought Congress should focus on cutting taxes voted for Toomey 60-39 percent, and they helped to give Toomey the edge.

AGE: Voters under 44 favored Sestak, but those over 45 favored Toomey -- and they made up 66 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate.

ECONOMY: The poor economy and government dissatisfaction also played to Toomey's favor. Among those who called the economy the top issue facing the country, 56 percent voted for Toomey vs. 44 percent for Sestak; among the 51 percent who said they were very worried about the economy, Toomey won by 67-32 percent; and those who were dissatisfied with the way the government is working favored Toomey by 66-34 percent.

HEALTH CARE: Sestak, currently a House member, voted with Obama on issues like health care reform. But 41 percent of Pennsylvania voters said they would be worse off under reform, and they voted for Toomey by 85-15 percent. Those who said they'd be better off voted for Sestak 90-10, but they comprised only 25 percent of the electorate.

WISCONSIN

INDEPENDENTS: Independents (27 percent of voters), who helped elected Russ Feingold in each of his past elections, went for the Republican candidate Ron Johnson the time, by 55-43 percent.

ECONOMY: Wisconsin voters are hurting economically, with 44 percent saying their financial situation is worse now than two years ago -- and these voters went for Johnson 2-1 (66 percent to 33 percent). In each of his past elections Feingold won economically challenged voters handedly.

OLDER VOTERS: Older voters have voted for the Democratic candidate in each of the past three Senate races, including voting for Feingold in 2004 by a 14-point margin. But not this time -- those age 65 and older went for Johnson, 54-46 percent.

INSIDER VS OUTSIDER: Feingold won solidly among voters who thought having the right experience (86-14 percent) or believed understanding the needs of people like them (54-45) mattered most to their vote. But among the 29 percent who thought that a candidate who could bring about needed change mattered most Johnson won by a 3-1 margin, 75-24 percent).

IDEOLOGY: A substantial 39 percent of Wisconsin voters said Feingold is too liberal on the issues -- and they voted for Johnson, 96-4.

ILLINOIS

INDEPENDENTS : Independents -- quintessential swing voters -- have generally voted for the Democratic Senate candidate in previous elections except in 1998. But this year, they went for Republican Mark Kirk by a large margin, 58-29 percent, and he narrowly won.

OLDER VOTERS: Similarly older voters have generally voted for the Democratic Senate candidate in previous elections in Illinois, except in 1998. But this year, those aged 65 or older went for Kirk by 56-40 percent.

OBAMA: Barack Obama enjoys a 55 percent favorable rating among these voters, one of his best in any state. But given that he once held this Senate seat, it is notable that 16 percent of those who voted for Obama in 2008 crossed over to Kirk this year.

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