- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

From combined dispatches

The Iraq war hurt Republican candidates in the midterm elections, but corruption and scandal were bigger problems for them, exit polls found.

Three-fourths of voters said corruption and scandal were important to their votes, and they were more likely to vote for the Democratic candidates for the House. Iraq was important for two-thirds, and they also leaned toward Democrats.

In the vote for the U.S. House, Democrats were winning among several groups that usually have been closely contested — independents, moderates, the middle class and suburban women, according to early exit poll results. For some voters, it was important to have a balance of power in Washington.

Norman Moore, 70, a retired editor from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., decided to vote for Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. about two or three weeks ago.

“I do think Democratic control of Congress would put the brakes on this administration,” he said.

Those most concerned about scandals and corruption — about four in 10 voters — were far more likely to vote Democratic. Most white evangelicals said corruption was very important in their vote and almost a third of them voted Democratic, according to a national exit poll of 8,211 voters conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of two percentage points, higher for subgroups. Besides in-person interviews yesterday, the survey included 1,500 absentee or early voters interviewed by telephone during the past week in 10 states with heavy early voting.

Political analysts have warned against exit polls in the past several years, noting a spotty record usually favoring Democrats. Surveys have shown, among other things, that Democrats are more likely to answer exit-poll questions.

Terrorism was considered an important issue in the House election by about three-quarters of those polled, but they split between Democrats and Republicans, robbing the Republican Party of an issue that has been key to its success in past elections.

Other results showed that discontent with President Bush was weighing heavily on voters’ minds.

Early exit poll data by ABC showed that six in 10 voters disapproved of the way Mr. Bush, closely identified with the war in Iraq, was doing his job. Six in 10 voters also disapproved of the war. CBS exit polls found that 57 percent of voters asked disapproved of the war in Iraq, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 service members.

Amid a huge voter turnout drive by both parties, Democratic leaders expressed confidence about their chances in making the election a referendum on Mr. Bush, even though Republicans were boosted by late polls showing them closing the gap.

“This is our last chance to rebuke George Bush. Despite six years of disastrous leadership, George Bush has not been held accountable for a single thing he has done,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, told supporters.

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