WASHINGTON - Voters were intensely worried about the future of the economy Tuesday and unhappy with the way President Barack Obama and Congress have been running things.
They didn't hold a favorable view of either the Republican or Democratic parties, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary exit poll results and pre-election polls. Overwhelmingly, people at the polls were dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, and a fourth said they're angry about it.
"I've never felt so much despair as I do right now," said John Powers, a Bayville, N.J., retiree who voted Republican out of animus toward Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The economy eclipsed any other issue.
Almost everyone surveyed — more than 80 percent — expressed worry about the direction the economy will take over the next year. Still, a majority said their own family's financial situation was the same or better than two years ago, when a recession-plagued nation swept Obama into office and strengthened the Democrats' congressional majorities.
The four out of 10 voters who said things for their families are worse now favored Republican House candidates.
About a third of voters said their household suffered a job loss in the past two years. Those setbacks didn't give their votes a clear direction — the group divided over which party to support in House races.
Only about a quarter of voters blamed Obama for the nation's economic troubles. Voters overall were more likely to point the finger at Wall Street bankers.
"We were definitely dipping down long before Barack ever came into office," said Steve Wise, 28, a teacher voting mostly Democratic in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood. "If anything, he righted the ship and started bringing us back up."
Asked about Obama's policies overall, about half of voters predicted he would hurt the country.
This view was especially strong among voters who support the tea party — about four out of 10 of those who came to the polls. They overwhelmingly voted Republican. Almost all of them want Congress to repeal the new health care law. They also were focused on reducing the budget deficit, followed by cutting taxes.
In contrast, voters who said they cast ballots for Obama in 2008 mostly stuck by the Democrats and still back the president on health care and the economic stimulus package.
The preliminary results are from interviews that Edison Research conducted for The Associated Press and television networks with more than 11,000 voters nationwide. This included 9,525 interviews Tuesday in a random sample of 268 precincts nationally. In addition, landline and cellular telephone interviews were conducted Oct. 22 to 31 with 1,600 people who voted early or absentee. There is a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1 percentage points for the entire sample, higher for subgroups.