The New York Times reports:
Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.
If women choose Republicans over Democrats in House races on Tuesday, it will be the first time they have done so since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982.
The poll provides a pre-Election Day glimpse of a nation so politically disquieted and disappointed in its current trajectory that 57 percent of the registered voters surveyed said they were more willing to take a chance this year on a candidate with little previous political experience. More than a quarter of them said they were even willing to back a candidate who holds some views that “seem extreme.”
On the issue most driving the campaign, the economy, Republicans have erased the traditional advantage held by Democrats as the party seen as better able to create jobs; the parties are now even on that measure. By a wide margin, Republicans continue to be seen as the party better able to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The public wants compromise from both sides, though it thinks Mr. Obama will try to do so more than Republicans will. Yet for all of its general unhappiness, the electorate does not seem to be offering any clear guidance for Mr. Obama and the incoming Congress — whoever controls it — on the big issues.
While almost 9 in 10 respondents said they considered government spending to be an important issue, and more than half said they favored smaller government offering fewer services, there was no consensus on what programs should be cut. There was clear opposition to addressing one of the government’s biggest long-term challenges — the growing costs of paying Social Security benefits — by raising the retirement age or reducing benefits for future retirees. Support for one of Mr. Obama’s main economic proposals — raising taxes on income above $250,000 a year — has declined substantially over the course of this year.
Though Republicans have managed to keep Democrats on the defensive over the health care plan they enacted this year, the poll also shows Americans remain divided over Republican promises to repeal it. Forty-five percent said the law should stand, and 41 percent said it should go.