Exit Polls: Economy, Voter Anger Drive Republican Victory

Eighty-eight percent of voters today say the national economy's in bad shape.

ByABC News
October 29, 2010, 10:45 AM

Nov. 2, 2010 -- Exit poll results collected from voters as they left their voting stations Tuesday underscore the economic distress defining the 2010 election. Eighty-eight percent of voters today say the national economy's in bad shape, nearly as many as the record 92 percent who said so two years ago. Only 14 percent say their own family's financial situation has improved since 2008. And few see much respite: Compounding the political impact of the long downturn, 86 percent remain worried about the economy's direction in the next year, including half who are "very" worried.

Indeed 29 percent say someone in their own household has lost a job in the last two years.

That dissatisfaction pushed voters into the Republican column in a big way. Nearly two of three voters picked the economy as the single most important issue in their vote – and they voted 53-44 percent for Republicans for House. It is the first time, in exit poll since 1992, that economy voters have favored Republicans.

The political impacts are powerful. Seventy-three percent in these exit poll results describe themselves as dissatisfied or even angry (26 percent) about the way the federal government is working – compared with 69 percent in 1994, when the Republicans seized the House, and a whopping 80 percent in 1992, when they lost the presidency.

The differential among angry voters - those favoring Republicans over Democrats - is huge this year – vastly more so than in 1992 or 1994, the previous times the question was asked. Today, those who described themselves as angry voters went 84-14 percent in favor of Republican candidates for the House (+70). In 1994, 73-34 percent in favor of the Republicans (+39). In 1992, 56-36 in favor of the Democrats (+20).

Exit poll results will change as additional data come in. Check ABC News for updates as the evening progresses.

Almost everywhere you look in these exit poll results, you can find evidence of the Republican wave that is the centerpiece of this election.

INDEPENDENTS – It's swing-voting independents who, as usual, made the difference today. Independents favored Republicans for House by a thumping 15 points, 55-40 percent, in the national exit poll. Compare that to Obama's 8-point win among independents in 2008.

If it holds in updates, it'll be the Republicans' biggest win among independents in exit polls dating to 1982 – by a single point. The GOP won independents by 14 points in 1994, the last time they took control of the House.

WHITE CATHOLICS – Like independents, white Catholics are a true swing voter group. They're voting 41-58 in favor of Republicans for House (+17). That closely mirrors their vote in 1994, when Republicans won white Catholics by 55-44 percent (+11).

WOMEN – Women are voting 49-49 percent for Democratic vs Republican House candidates. President Obama won women by 13 points in 2008. This is the best for Republicans among women in national House vote in exit polls since 1982. Young women favor Democrats for the House, (61 percent Democrat to 36 per cent Republican among women 18-29 years old) but the gap closes for the 30-64 age group (64 percent of women), and reverses for women over 65 (41 per cent Democrat vs. 57 per cent Republican). Republican candidates have siphoned off 12 percent of women who voted for Obama in 2008. Democratic candidates have swayed fewer of the women who voted for John McCain, 7 percent.