Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio Results: Why Midwest Swing States Flipped to the GOP

President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about the suspicious packages found on U.S. bound planes, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about the suspicious packages found on U.S. bound planes, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin are key swing states in the presidential election.

In 2008, President Obama won all three of these critical Midwest battlegrounds over John McCain. In 2010, however, these states swung to the Republican column in their Senate races which could portend problems for President Obama in 2012.

What happened in the two years that caused these states to turn from blue to red?

The key change has been in the independent vote. In 2008, President Obama won the independent vote in all three states. However, this year the Democratic candidate for Senator lost the independent vote by 36 points in Ohio, 8 points in Pennsylvania, and 12 points in Wisconsin, according to preliminary CBS News exit poll results. (Wisconsin Exit Poll Results | Ohio Exit Poll)

One of the key reasons for the Democrats losing independents in these states in 2006 has to with their lack of support for President Obama and his policies. After having won all three states, President Obama's job approval is now in negative territory. In Pennsylvania, only 47 percent approve of the way Obama is handling his job, in Wisconsin only 46 percent approve, and in Ohio only 44 percent approve. (See the Pennsylvania Exit Poll)

Full Election Results

One policy in particular has caused him problems with independents is health care reform. In the summer of 2009, when health care was hotly debated, Mr. Obama's job approval numbers started to drop in general, and in particular among independents. In each state voters think that their own health care will get worse rather than better by large margins.

High unemployment leading to high economic discontent is another reason for these states voting for Republicans. Voters are rejecting the Democrats because they are the party in power and voters want change. About 9 in 10 voters in these three states say they are very or somewhat worried about the direction of the economy. And among those voters very worried about the direction of the economy they are voting for the Republican by more than 2-1.

The economic discontent is fueling the anger toward the federal government. In each state about more than 6 in 10 voters are either dissatisfied or angry with the federal government. Among those voters who say they are "angry" with the federal government, about 9 in 10 are voting Republican.

Illinois, historically a blue state in presidential elections, also went Republican this year as Mark Kirk defeated Alexi Giannoulias. This is also a symbolic blow to the White House because this was the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama. (Illinois Exit Poll)

Full Wisconsin Results
Full Pennsylvania Results
Full Ohio Results
Full Illinois Results

Doug Schwartz Ph.D., is the Director of the Quinnipiac University Poll

  • Doug Schwartz

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