Republicans took control of Congress with a big push from voters who feel they’ve been left behind in the nation’s gradual economic recovery, exit polls show. Although they turned against President Barack Obama and Democrats, gloomy voters also expressed scant confidence in Republican leaders.
Almost half say their own family’s financial situation hasn’t improved much over the past two years, and a fourth say it’s gotten worse. Those who said their finances were worse supported Republican congressional candidates by more than a 2-1 margin.
Six in 10 voters said they were dissatisfied or angry with the Obama administration, but about the same number felt that way about Republican leaders in Congress.
“We have a dysfunctional Congress, period,” said Allen McClure of Statesboro, Georgia, a Republican who voted for the GOP’s David Perdue for Senate.
Fifty-five percent of voters disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job, and 8 in 10 disapproved of Congress.
In Concord, New Hampshire, Julie Votaw said she chose a straight Republican ticket to protest a lack of leadership from the White House.
“I want to send a statement to the Obama administration that I’m very upset,” the 50-year-old homemaker said, adding, “I just feel like no one is in control.”
What was on voters’ minds:
IT'S THE ECONOMY, STILL
The economy remains the big issue for 45 percent of voters, who rank it ahead of health care, immigration or foreign policy. And economic worries played to Republicans’ advantage, according to the surveys of voters as they left polling places.
Despite the stock market’s recovery and improvements in hiring, most say the U.S. economy is stagnating or even getting worse these days.
The third who say the economy is improving strongly backed Democrats.
ISSUES CUT BOTH WAYS
Exit poll results show just over half of voters think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals, a Republican mantra.
But on some other issues, most voters took positions that align more with the Democratic Party.
A majority favor offering immigrants who are in the country illegally a way to stay. A little more than half think abortion ought to be legal in most cases, and most of the voters consider climate change a serious problem.
Nearly two-thirds think the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy, a common theme among Democratic candidates.
Health care complaints came from both sides. People who said health care is their top issue were about as likely to say Obama’s overhaul didn’t go far enough as to say it went too far. Overall, those people tended to vote Democratic.
People who said either immigration or foreign policy was their top issue tended to vote Republican.
WHO VOTED HOW
Democrats lost some of the female support that helped re-elect Obama and Senate Democrats in 2012.
Still, more women supported Democrats than in 2010.
As usual, men leaned Republican.
White voters favored Republicans by a 22-point margin. Two-thirds of Hispanics voted Democratic in House races, and black voters were overwhelmingly for the Democrats.
Republicans did better among married people, whether male or female, and rural residents.
Single women and city dwellers were especially Democratic.
Regular churchgoers favored Republicans, while those who never attend religious services overwhelmingly voted for Democrats.
Voters with incomes under $50,000 generally favored Democrats, while those who earn more tended to support Republicans.
About two-thirds feel the nation is seriously off on the wrong track – slightly more than thought that when Republicans won back control of the House in 2010. Seven in 10 of those people voted for Republican candidates.
Most voters leaving polling places said they don’t have much trust in government. And they were twice as likely to think life will be worse for the next generation than better.
Anti-Obama feeling was a significant drag on Democrats: A third of voters said their congressional choice was partly a repudiation of Obama.
But Republicans still have a lot to prove to disgruntled Americans. More than a third of those who voted for a Republican House candidate were dissatisfied or even angry with GOP leaders in Congress. A quarter of Democratic voters were similarly upset with Obama.
Both political parties were viewed unfavorably by a majority of midterm voters.
The survey of 19,436 voters nationwide was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 281 precincts Tuesday, as well as 3,113 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.