Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill won a second term, defeating embattled GOP challenger Todd Akin. Here’s a look at voters’ views of Tuesday’s elections, according to an exit poll conducted in Missouri for The Associated Press:
`LEGTIMATE RAPE’ COMMENT ON VOTERS’ MINDS
There’s no doubt about it: Akin’s remark that women’s bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy after “legitimate rape” turned off many Missourians, bolstering the case that it sunk the Republican’s chances. Nearly two-thirds of voters said that, at the very least, they gave the comment some consideration in the voting booth – and those who did overwhelmingly sided with McCaskill by a rate of almost three to one. Close to 70 percent of women said Akin’s remark on rape and abortion in an August television interview was important to their decision, and Akin couldn’t get the majority of men to look past that race-turning moment, either.
WOMEN BACK McCASKILL WITH STRONG TURNOUT
Women didn’t carry McCaskill to victory on their own, but they did the heavy lifting. McCaskill outperformed Akin nearly three to two among women, who supported her in slightly higher numbers than in 2006. The Democrat’s comfortable edge among women was propelled by those 18-44 who overwhelmingly lined up behind the first-term incumbent, as did a clear majority of middle-aged women who made up the bulk of female voters. Akin offset some of these losses by holding his ground among women 65 and older and white women overall. Black women, however, backed McCaskill almost exclusively – 97 percent, according to polling data.
AKIN FARES BETTER AMONG MEN
Aside from being more likely to look past Akin’s comment, men backed Akin in stronger numbers than women, especially those 65 and older. Still, the best Akin could muster was essentially a draw with McCaskill for the entire male vote.
YOUNG VOTERS FLOCK TO McCASKILL
The biggest inroads McCaskill made since her first run six years ago? Young voters. She benefited from a nearly 20-point swing among voters 29 and under who turned out for her this time after fighting for an even share of that voting bloc in 2006.
VOTERS SPLIT ON ABORTION
The “legitimate rape” comment put a spotlight on abortion in Missouri, and voters were almost evenly split between pro-choice and anti-abortion views. Akin predictably fared well among abortion opponents – better than six in 10 broke his way – but not as well as McCaskill did among those who feel abortion should be legal in most or all cases. They lined up better than 70 percent behind McCaskill, who seized on Akin’s comments after once being considered among the most vulnerable members in Congress. Those most unequivocal on the issue – that it should be legal in all instances, or prohibited no matter the circumstance – made up the smallest numbers.
STANDING BY THEIR CANDIDATE
If McCaskill and the Democrats had counted on an anti-Akin vote because of his comments to win this election, that’s not what did it for them. Only about one in eight of McCaskill’s voters said they chose her because they disliked Akin. About half of both McCaskill’s and Akin’s supporters said they strongly backed their candidate without reservations.
ECONOMY BIGGEST ISSUE FACING COUNTRY
Beyond Missouri politics, the economy was weighing most on the minds of voters by far. Health care and the deficit was a distant second when it came to the most pressing issues facing the country. Unemployment in Missouri is just under 7 percent and below the national average. Few gave the economy even adequate marks: nearly half said it wasn’t doing so good, and one-third held an even bleaker view, rating the economy in poor shape.
The exit poll of 2,103 Missouri voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research in a random sample of 35 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.