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(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON — The basic math for Tuesday's Republican election triumph was simple: Most Americans think the economy is in awful shape, and those feeling that way voted solidly for the Republicans.Women were divided about evenly between Democrats
and Republicans. That split was a major blow to Democrats, who've
consistently won the female vote over the past two decades. Men gave
about 55 percent of their vote to the Republicans Tuesday — a change
from 2008 and 2006, when they were more evenly sliced, but similar to
their margin in the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.
Underlying that, though, was a remarkable roll call of groups who powered the Republican victory. Supporters of the fledgling conservative tea party movement supplied about 2 of every 3 Republican votes while women, independents, suburbanites and white Catholics fled toward Republican House candidates, according to a national exit poll of voters.
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With Democrats running the White House and Congress at a time of near 10 percent unemployment and rampant home foreclosures, the majority party was the target of widespread sourness over the country's No. 1 issue. Nearly 9 in 10 called the economy bad and expressed worry over the coming year, and 4 in 10 said their personal finances had grown worse under President Barack Obama. All of those people leaned strongly Republican.
Frustration was also aimed at Obama. Just two years after he won the White House, over half — about 54 percent — expressed disapproval of the job he's doing and similar numbers said his policies will harm the country. Illustrating the impact this had Tuesday, almost 4 in 10 considered their House vote an expression of opposition to Obama while only a quarter said their vote signaled support for the president.
There were other manifestations of the public's dour mood:
—Just over half gave negative marks to both the Republican and Democratic parties, and about three-quarters gave Congress poor grades.
—About three-quarters expressed dissatisfaction with how the federal government works, and they voted heavily Republican. Their ranks included 1 in 4 who said they are angry.
—A majority said the government should more often leave people and businesses alone — another group that tilted Republican.
The exit poll also pointed to problems for Obama as he considers a 2012 re-election bid. In a sign of his diminished luster, hardly any first-time voters went to the polls Tuesday despite campaign-trail pleas — a contrast to 2008, when about 1 in 10 voters were new and strongly backed Obama.
Independents supported him solidly two years ago but on Tuesday disapproved of his job performance by almost 3-2. They were also pivotal for Republican candidates, giving them about 55 percent of their votes after leaning solidly Democratic in Obama's 2008 presidential race and the 2006 election that saw Democrats win congressional control.
Tea party supporters accounted for about 4 in 10 voters Tuesday, and they voted overwhelmingly Republican. Overall, just over 1 in 5 voters considered their House vote an expression of support for the tea party, while nearly as many called their vote a message of opposition to the group. Just over half said the tea party had no effect on their ballot.
The results are from a survey that Edison Research conducted for The
Associated Press and television networks with 18,132 voters nationwide.
This included interviews with 16,531 voters Tuesday in a random sample
of 268 precincts nationally. In addition, landline and cellular
telephone interviews were conducted Oct. 22 to 31 with 1,601 people who
voted early or absentee. There is a margin of sampling error of plus or
minus 1 percentage point for the entire sample, higher for subgroups.