Exit polls show mixed message from Vt. voters

By Holly Ramer
Associated Press Writer / November 2, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—Despite being concerned about the economy and the nation's future in general, Vermont voters like both President Barack Obama and his health care overhaul legislation, according to preliminary results from exit polls for The Associated Press.

Nearly nine out of 10 voters said they worry about the direction the economy will take in the next year, and voters who think the country is on the wrong track or that government is doing too much slightly outnumbered those who think the nation is headed in the right direction or that government should do more.

But sending a bit of a mixed message, six in 10 also said they approve of Obama's job performance, and more than half said they want to either expand his health care law or leave it alone.

"He's not doing as good as he should be doing, but we have to give him a chance," said Steve Moore, 55, a Democrat who owns his own home-cleaning business.

There was no mixed message when it came to re-electing Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch, both Democrats.

Leahy won the support of more than nine in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 independents. He also was backed by about a fifth of the Republicans, though his support there dropped compared with his 2004 win.

Republican Len Britton led Leahy among the one-third of voters who said they want to repeal the health care overhaul legislation, the one-quarter who support the Tea Party and the roughly 50 percent who believe government does too many things best left to individuals and businesses.

In the House race, Welch's support among independents and Republicans mirrored Leahy's, and he won even a larger share of the Democratic vote. His Republican challenger, Paul Beaudry, was strongest among conservatives, tea party supporters and those who want to repeal the health care law.

About a quarter of voters described themselves as conservatives, with the rest split between moderates and liberals.

Martha Englert, 57, of Barre, said she was disheartened to see many of her fellow independents "defect" to the tea party, which she called well-intentioned but misguided.

"My biggest concern is the economy, but along with that is my concern for people who are dropped through the bottom of the safety nets," said Englert, who works for a nonprofit group involved in affordable housing. "We seem to be in a very mean-spirited time, where we don't want to be giving money to people who really need it."

The preliminary exit poll of 849 voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research in a random sample of 15 polling places statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.