CNN has published its exit polling data from last Tuesday’s House elections. The results paint a portrait of a disgruntled electorate that disapproves of everything, and probably lies to exit pollsters out of spite.
For example, the same percentage of respondents claims to have voted for Barack Obama and John McCain. Since Obama won the actual election by seven points, and the 45% support expressed for each candidate is close to the 46% McCain actually pulled, one suspects a great deal of Obama-Biden 2008 bumper stickers are getting steamed off the rear windows of the nation’s automobiles. Four percent of the exit poll respondents said they did not vote in 2008, with 60% of these non-voters identifying as Republican, providing evidence that one of McCain’s biggest problems was his failure to energize his base. Interestingly, 5% of Republican voters indicated strong approval of President Obama’s performance, which suggests the pollsters spent a lot of time hanging around outside Lindsay Graham’s house.
Republicans and Democrats had roughly equivalent approve/disapprove numbers, which is somewhat unusual, given the magnitude of the Republican victory on Tuesday. GOP freshmen would be well-advised to study incoming Florida senator Marco Rubio’s victory speech, in which he spoke eloquently of the Republicans winning a “second chance to be what they said they were going to be, so long ago.”
The election was clearly a referendum on President Obama. His overall disapproval rating in the exit poll was 54%. 37% of respondents said their House vote was mean to express opposition to the President, while only 24% meant their vote as a gesture of support. 52% said they felt Obama’s policies would hurt the country. By a margin of 56 to 38%, voters said they felt the government was “doing too much,” and a stunning 74% said they were dissatisfied or angry with the federal government.
The Tea Party movement scored much higher favorable ratings than the Republican Party, with 41% support and only 31% opposition. Roughly the same percentage of Republicans expressed support for the Tea Party (87%) as Democrats declared opposition (86%). This suggests a growing alignment between the Tea Party and Republicans… along with a strong wish for the latter to become more like the former.
The economy was by far the most important issue cited by voters, but they differed on what the government should do about it. 39% want the deficit reduced, but a comparable 37% think the government should spend more to create jobs. Since the last round of madcap government spending blew over $240k per job “created or saved,” it’s hard to see what good more pork-fried stimulus money would do. Only 19% of exit poll respondents said the highest priority for the next Congress should be reducing taxes, which is the one thing that actually could create jobs. Too much of the public still don’t see the connection between returning money to the private sector and economic growth.
Overall, these exit poll results depict an electorate that wanted to halt the course Obama and the Democrats had set for the country, but it also doesn’t trust the Republicans, and isn’t certain what should be done next. The Republicans have two years to explain precisely what Americans voted against in 2010, and what they should vote for in 2012.