The 2010 election provided a victory for the Republican Party in the U.S. House by a margin of 52% to 45% when the vote for all 435 congressional districts is aggregated nationally. However (according to the National Election Exit Polls conducted by Edison), even while voting Republican for the U.S. House, voters had a slightly higher favorable opinion of the Democratic Party (44% favorable; 52% unfavorable) than the Republican Party (41% favorable; 53% unfavorable).
So how did the Republicans pull off this win? The margin of victory was provided by the 16% of voters who said that they have an unfavorable opinion of both parties. Those voters went 68% Republican and 23% Democratic in their vote for U.S. House. They voted by similar margins for the Senate (66% R; 22% D) and in Governor races (62% R; 27% D) in states that were electing Senators and Governors this year.
These “major-party-haters” are more male (57% vs. 48% among all voters) than the overall voting population, more likely to call themselves “Independents” (58% vs. 29% for all voters) and more pessimistic about the future (56% expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse than life today vs. 39% for all voters). Interestingly, this group of voters was not anymore likely to have been affected negatively by the recession than other voters – 31% reported having someone in their household who had lost their job in the past two years vs. 30% among all voters; and voters in this group were more likely to report household income between $75,000 and $200,000 than the overall population.
This group represents the 16% of voters who have currently lost faith in both parties. While they chose to give the Republicans another chance this year, there is no assurance that this group will remain Republican in future elections. In fact, these voters look very similar to the 19% of voters who chose to reject both major parties in 1992 by voting for Ross Perot for President.