Exit Polls: Economy, Voter Anger Drive Republican Victory


Republican Wave Widespread; Voters Angry

SENIORS – Seniors account for 24 percent of the vote, their highest in a national House vote in data going back to 1992, and their 19-point margin in support of Republican candidates, if it holds, will be the best such margin among seniors in House vote for the GOP, again in available exit poll data since 1992.

WHITES – Sixty percent of whites are voting Republican for House. If it holds, again it'll be the most in exit polls dating back to 1982. It's worth noting that in the presidential, rather than the House vote Ronald Reagan won more whites in 1984.

CONSERVATIVES – Conservatives account for 41 percent of voters in these results – a high in recent exit polls (exceeded, in available data, only by 43 percent in that Reagan re-election of 1984).

THE WORKING CLASS– In 2008, working-class white men and women (those who make less than $50,000) split about evenly in their House vote. Today they are favoring the Republican candidate - men by a double-digit margin: 55-42 percent; women by 8-points margin, 52-44 percent.

Still, while Republicans scored big victories on Tuesday, there are warning signs for both parties in the exit poll results.

In this data, 45 percent of voters approve of Barack Obama's job performance. Critically, just a third say the administration's economic stimulus program has helped the economy – a harsh judgment after $800 billion has been spent. And the Congress is remarkably unpopular: just 25 percent of voters approve of the way it is doing its job, compared to 24 percent in 2008, 37 per cent in 2006, and 41 per cent in 1998.

Further underscoring general public discontent, just 43 percent of voters express a favorable opinion of the in-power Democratic Party, vs. 53 percent who see it negatively. On the Republican Party, it's essentially the same – 41 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable.

The Tea Party Factor

One widely discussed effect of public disenchantment this year has been the rise of the Tea Party political movement. In exit poll results, 41 percent of voters describe themselves as supporters of this movement; 21 percent, support it strongly. Thirty-one percent say they oppose the movement; the rest, 24 percent, are "neutral" about it.

Democrats or independents account for 42 percent of Tea Party supporters. Fifty-eight percent of them are Republicans.

In another question, measuring a key aspect of the movement's message, 56 percent say government "is doing too many things better left to business and individuals," vs. 39 percent who say it "should do more to solve problems."

Still, just 23 percent said they voted to send a message in favor of the Tea Party movement, vs. 18 percent against it; 55 percent called the movement "not a factor" in their vote.

For comparison, in an election likely to be seen as a referendum on the president, 24 percent said they voted to show support for Obama; 37 percent to oppose him. An additional 36 percent said he wasn't a factor. George W. Bush was a similar drag on his party in 2006; in that election, voters, by 36-22 percent, said they were casting their ballot to express opposition to Bush, rather than support for him.

Exit Polls Reflect Other Issues

In our national exit poll, we asked: Should same-sex marriages be legally recognized in your state? Yes, 40 percent; no, 54 percent. That issue was on the ballot in Iowa, where the result was nearly the same: yes, 38 percent; no, 56 percent.

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