WASHINGTON >> The glum voters who handed Republicans full control of Congress on Tuesday feel the U.S. is stagnating under President Barack Obama’s leadership, but put little faith in politicians of either party.
Most voters leaving polling places said they don’t have much trust in government, feel the nation is off on the wrong track and believe life will be worse for the next generation. Those feeling pessimistic were more likely to vote for Republican congressional candidates.
Above all, voters worried about the economy, exit polls show. That angst helped Republicans take control of the Senate and add to their dominance in the House.
People who said their own financial situation grew worse in the past two years voted for Republican congressional candidates by a 2-1 margin.
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.”
Overall, more than half of voters disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job.
But Republican candidates had to overcome voters’ displeasure with their own party leaders, too. More than a third of those voting 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.
“I feel we need a change in Washington, somehow, someway,” said Jodi Beauchene, 44, a food merchandiser in Fargo, North Dakota, who turned to the Libertarian congressional candidate because she’s fed up with both major parties.
What was on voters’ minds:
ISSUES CUT BOTH WAYS
The exit polls show just over half of voters think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals, a Republican mantra. About two-thirds feel the nation is seriously off on the wrong track — slightly more than thought that when Republicans won control of the House in 2010.
But on some 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.
IT’S THE ECONOMY, STILL
The economy remains the big issue for more than 4 in 10 voters, who rank it ahead of health care, immigration or foreign policy. And economic worries played to Republicans’ advantage.
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 exit poll shows.
The third who say the economy is improving strongly backed Democrats.
A big reason voters feel glum: 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.
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 this time than in 2010.
As usual, men leaned Republican.
White voters favored Republicans by a more than 20-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 voted for Democrats; those who earn more tended to support Republicans.
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. Six in 10 voters were either dissatisfied or angry with Republican leaders in Congress.
Both political parties were viewed unfavorably by a majority of midterm voters.
A whopping 8 in 10 disapprove of the way Congress has been doing its job while power was divided between Republicans and Democrats, according to the exit poll.
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.