The Congressional elections came down to the war in Iraq, the president who took the country there and an electorate looking for change.
Voters across the nation said they disapprove of the job President Bush is doing and many said their vote for Congress was to express opposition to him. A clear majority said they disapprove of the war in Iraq, and most said they do not believe it has improved the long-term security of the country.
First, a look at some key voting groups: About a quarter of today’s voters come from the core Democratic voting group of union households and as expected they favored Democratic candidates by 2 to 1. Almost a quarter of voters today were white Born-Again Christians, a Republican stronghold, and they favored Republican candidates by more than 2 to 1.
About the same number of independents showed up at the polls today as in the last presidential election. This swing-voting group, that both parties battled fiercely to capture, backed Democrats over Republicans by approximately 20 points.
Republicans were relatively successful in energizing their base; conservatives accounted for 32 percent of all voters today, down just 2 percentage points from 34 percent in 2004. Conservatives overwhelmingly — 78 percent — voted for the Republican in their House race. In addition, frequent church attendees favored Republican candidates by 12 points.
Women backed Democrats by double-digits (13 points), while men voted for the Democrat by a slimmer margin (4 points).
Mood of the Country
Voters today gave negative marks to the president: 42 percent approve and 57 percent disapprove of Bush’s performance. Those who approve of Bush backed Republican candidates by 70 percentage points, while voters who disapprove overwhelmingly backed Democratic House candidates.
President Bush played a large role in today’s voting, as a majority of voters said he was a factor in their decision: One in five voters (22 percent) said their vote was to show support for Bush, while 36 percent said it was to express opposition. Four in 10 (39 percent) said he was not a factor in their vote.
In addition, the number of voters who said they are angry with the Bush administration has increased to 29 percent today - up from 23 percent in 2004. Another 30 percent said they were “dissatisfied but not angry,” while at the other end of the spectrum 27 percent felt “satisfied, but not enthusiastic,” and about one in 10 felt “enthusiastic.”
Over half of voters (55 percent) said the country is headed in the wrong direction and 41 percent said it is going in the right direction. Those saying the country is on the right track broke for the Republican candidates by over 50 points, while those saying the country is going in the wrong direction went solidly for the Democratic candidate in their district about 60 points.
Looking back to 1994, when Republicans made sweeping gains in Congress, 39 percent of voters said the country was going in the right direction and 56 percent said it was on the wrong track.
Overall, almost half of voters rate the condition of the nation’s economy positively (9 percent “excellent” and 39 percent “good”) and about half give a gloomier assessment (38 percent “not so good” and 13 percent “poor”).
When assessing their own personal finances, 30 percent of voters today said they are better off today than they were two years ago, 25 percent said worse off and 44 percent said there has been no change in their family’s financial situation.
Among those saying they are better off today, fully 71 percent voted for Republicans; those who said they are worse off were solidly behind the Democrats (78 percent).
On the Issues
Sharply differing views on the essential issues tells a large part of the story this election. When deciding which candidate to support, more voters today said political corruption (41 percent) was extremely important to their vote than said the economy (39 percent), the issue of terrorism (39 percent), the war in Iraq (36 percent), values issues (36 percent) or illegal immigration (30 percent) was extremely important.
Those saying corruption was extremely important to their vote backed the Democratic candidate in their House district by a 60 to 38 percent margin.
Economy voters favored the Democrats by 20 percentage points, and Iraq war voters backed the Democrats by over 20 points.
Republicans were favored by terrorism voters (+ 7 points) and immigration voters (+ 6 points). The largest margin comes from values voters, and this group backed the Republican candidate by 18 points.
More voters today said they wanted at least some U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq now (55 percent) than said troop levels should stay the same or be increased (37 percent).
Slightly more voters think the Republicans (58 percent) would make the country safer from terrorism than think the Democrats would (51 percent).
A 59-percent majority thinks the war in Iraq has not made the country safer from terrorism, and those voters strongly favored the Democrats.
Similarly, 56 percent disapprove of the war in Iraq, and those voters overwhelmingly favored the Democratic candidate.
Although Republicans tried to focus their campaigns on local issues, voters today said national issues mattered more to deciding their vote: 34 percent said local issues mattered more and 60 percent said national issues. Either way, Democrats were favored by both groups.
Confidence in Vote Counting
Most voters today (87 percent) said they were confident that their vote will be accurately counted, including 46 percent who said they were very confident. Significantly more Republicans (62 percent) than Democrats (33 percent) said they were very confident their votes would be tallied accurately.
Blacks are much less confident than whites about the accuracy of vote counting. Among black voters today, 27 percent said they were very confident, while 48 percent of whites said so.
Edison/Mitofsky conducted this exit poll for FOX News and interviewed 13,208 voters as they left randomly selected polling places around the country. The sampling error for the results is plus or minus 1 percentage point for all voters (higher among smaller subgroups).