Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

December 3, 2010 8:58 PM

What Happened

For two years President Obama and the Democratic Congress said to the American Public: "We know what is best for you and the country."

On election day 2010 American voters responded, saying, "Oh, no you don’t."

There are as many "reasons" proffered for the election results as there are persons offering opinions on the subject. Here are some selected pieces of information that probably affected the result.

In February 2009, with unemployment at 8.2%, 44% said the country was on the wrong track; 26% disapproved generally of the job that Obama was doing; and 31% disapproved specifically of the job he was doing on the economy.

When unemployment hit 10.1% in October 2009, 52% said the country was on the wrong track, 42% disapproved of the job Obama was doing, and 46% disapproved of his performance on the economy.

By March 2010, unemployment was down to 9.7%, but the wrong track number hit 59%. 47% disapproved of Obama’s job generally, and 50% of his work on the economy. In June 2010, unemployment was 9.5%, the wrong track number hit 62%, disapproval of Obama’s job performance edged up to 48%, and on the economy it hit 50%.

By October 2010, with unemployment at 9.6%, the wrong track number was at 59/60%, Obama’s general job performance was at 49/50%, and his performance on the economy was at 59/60%. (Unemployment data BLS, NBC/WSJ: see chart below)

The Congress came to the 2009-10 cycle with 63% disapproving of the job it was doing in February 2009. In June 2010 Congress was at 70% disapproval. By October 2010, 76% disapproved its work. (NYT/CBS)

Obama approval ratings

Looking back over the last quarter century, as this election took place the percentage of voters who described themselves as ideologically conservative had reached a high of 42%. The number describing themselves as moderate reached a 25- year low of 38%. 20% described themselves as liberal, a touch below the high of 22% reached in 2008.

Over the same period, the number of people identifying themselves as Independent went from a high of 30% in 1990, to a low of 22% in 2002, and back up to 29% in 2010.

Equal numbers, 35%, identified as Republicans and Democrats in 2010. For the Democrats this was a 25 year low. Democrats represented a high of 40% of the voting electorate in 1986, 1996, and 2008. For the Republicans this number (35%) was up from 33% in 2008, and down from its 25 year high of 40%in 2002.

In 2006 conservatives were 32% of the electorate and 78% voted Republican. In 2008 they represented 34% of the electorate and 78%voted Republican. However, in 2010 conservatives represented 42% of the electorate and 84% went Republican.

18-29 year olds represented 12% of the electorate in 2006; 60% voted Democrat. They represented 18% of the electorate in 2008 and 66% went Democratic. But in 2010, when they represented 12% of the electorate, only 56% voted Democratic.

In 2008, only 15% of the electorate was 65 years of age and older; 53% went Republican. In 2006 they represented 19% of the electorate and they split their vote 49%-49%. Then, in 2010 they were 21% of the electorate and 58% voted Republican.

Independents represented 29% of the electorate in 2008 and 2010. However, in 2008 they voted 52% Democratic, and in 2010 they delivered 55% of their vote to Republicans.

In 2008, 75% said the country was going in the wrong direction and 62% voted Democratic. In 2010, the number of those choosing wrong direction was down to 61%, but 75% voted Republican.

Those making less than $50,000 per year were 40% of the electorate in 2006, and delivered 60% of their vote to Democrats. In 2008 they were 38% of the electorate and went Democratic by 60%. In 2010, 36% of the voters were in this category and 54% went Democratic.

In 2006 those making $50,000 or more represented 60% of the electorate and split their vote 49%-49%. Those in this financial group were 62% in 2008 and again split their vote 49%-49%. However, in 2010 they represented 63% of the vote, but went for the Republicans by 55%.

In 2006, 21% of the electorate came from families that had at least one union member. 64% voted Democratic. In 2010 the participation level was 17% and 61% voted Democratic.

If you were among the 63% of 2010 voters who thought the economy was the single most important issue facing the country, you voted 54% for Republican candidates. If you were among the 18% who thought healthcare was the most important issue, you voted 51% for Democratic candidates.

32% of 2010 voters thought that life for the next generation would be better than life today; they voted 60% for Democrats. If you were among the 39% who thought life would be worse, you voted 64% for Republican candidates.

A quarter of 2010 voters were positive about the way the Federal government is working and 81% supported Democrats. However, if you among the other three quarters (73%) who are negative about the way the government is working, you went Republican by 65%. Democrats won in the East, tied with Republicans in the West; and lost the Midwest 53-44% and the South by 61-37%.

And then there is the money. Which side actually spent the most remains to be seen. But one thing is clear. The money spent on behalf of Republican candidates was particularly well spent.

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