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Exit polls show voters divided by Biden, Trump and abortion

Disgruntled and polarized, voters rendered a split decision on Tuesday that left control of Congress still in doubt 12 hours after the polls closed.

According to voter surveys, broad swaths of the electorate disapproved of the job Joe Biden is doing as president and described the economy in negative terms.

And while Republicans are still favored to win the House majority and could yet flip the Senate, too, their gains were curtailed — in large part because even dissatisfied voters viewed the Donald Trump-led GOP as an unpalatable option and because of anger over the Supreme Court’s abortion decision this summer.

In the National Election Pool exit poll, conducted by Edison Research, roughly three in four voters described the condition of the U.S. economy as either “poor” or “not so good.” And 73 percent said they were dissatisfied or angry about the way things are going in the country today.

While more voters said inflation was the most important issue to them, it only barely topped abortion, 31 percent to 27 percent. In Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fetterman flipped a GOP-held Senate seat to fuel his party’s hopes of keeping the chamber, abortion (36 percent) actually outranked inflation (29 percent).

But looming over the whole night were the country’s two dominant — and unpopular — political figures: Biden and Trump.

Both men were viewed favorably by only roughly four in 10 voters. And even though Trump has been out of the White House for nearly two years, his continued presence on the political scene — including hyping the pending announcement of a third consecutive campaign for the presidency on the eve of the election — meant he was almost as central to Tuesday’s races as Biden was.

Just over half of voters said their choice for Congress was either to support (19 percent) or oppose Biden (32 percent), while 47 percent of voters said Biden wasn’t a factor. The percentages who described their votes as meant to support (16 percent) or oppose (28 percent) Trump were only slightly lower, while 54 percent said Trump wasn’t a factor in their votes.

Biden’s job-approval rating was underwater — 44 percent approved, 55 percent disapproved. But of the 10 percent of voters who said they disapproved of Biden “somewhat,” slightly more voted for Democratic (49 percent) congressional candidates than Republican candidates (45 percent).

The numbers were similar in AP Votecast, the Associated Press’ survey of voters. Fourteen percent of respondents said they “somewhat disapproved” of Biden’s job performance, and they were roughly evenly divided between supporting Democratic candidates (47 percent) and Republicans (45 percent).

But midterm voters are deeply skeptical about a potential Biden reelection bid. Only 30 percent in the network exit poll said they wanted Biden to run for a second term in 2024, compared to 67 percent who said they didn’t.

Despite being the “out party” and not tied to the unpopular current president, voters’ opinions of the GOP are no better than their opinions of Democrats. Equal percentages — 44 percent — of voters said they had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, the network exit poll showed. And equal percentages (51 percent for Democrats and 52 percent for Republicans) described each party as “extreme.”

Then there was the role of abortion. In both surveys, around 60 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied or angry about the Supreme Court overturning its Roe v. Wade precedent, and those voters broke heavily for Democrats. In the network exit poll, nearly four in 10 voters said they were “angry” about Roe being overturned, and Democrats won 85 percent of them. Those voters made up about a third of the total electorate.

Key demographic groups also helped determine the election. There was a significant gender gap, though the network exit poll showed a larger difference between men (Republicans +14) and women (Democrats +8) than AP Votecast.

White voters broke for Republicans by an 18-point margin, according to the network exit poll — but Democrats actually carried white voters with college degrees by 7 points, even as Republicans won whites without college degrees by a whopping 34 points.

Republicans also made small inroads with voters of color — particularly men. Democrats carried Black men by 65 points and Latino men by just 8 points, while Black women (Democrats +78) and Latina women (Democrats +33) were more resistant to the GOP.

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