By Chris Kahn and Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Increased support from women, youth and Hispanic voters gave Democrats the boost they needed to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, according to a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.
Fifty-five percent of women said they backed a Democrat for the House this year, compared with 49 percent who in 2014 said they backed a Democrat in the congressional midterm elections.
Young voters also swung aggressively toward Democrats, with those ages 18 to 34 backing Democrats by 62 percent to 34 percent support for Republicans, a 28-percentage point gap.
This was up from 2014, when 54 percent of young voters backed Democrats and 36 percent went for Republicans, an 18-point gap.
Hispanic voters also favored Democratic House candidates by 33 percentage points – higher than the 18-point gap with Republicans that Democrats enjoyed in 2014, the poll found.
Democrats took control from Republicans in the House on Tuesday but Republicans outperformed expectations in Senate races and were set to pick up seats in the upper chamber.
All 435 seats in the House, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and 36 of the 50 state governorship were at stake.
Overall, U.S. voters were deeply divided about Republican President Donald Trump’s job performance and the direction of the country. When asked about Trump’s performance in office, 52 percent said they disapproved and 44 percent said they approved, the poll found.
The poll was conducted online on Tuesday and based on responses from 38,196 people who voted in 37 states. The poll is ongoing and will be updated as the vote is tallied.
Election Day polling revealed a split among women voters, who proved a decisive voting bloc for Democrats in the House but sided with Republicans in key Senate races.
Voters coalesced around three top election issues. The poll found 14 percent listed the economy as their top issue and another 14 percent named immigration. In third place, 13 percent said healthcare was their primary concern.
Both Democrats and Republicans cited immigration as a concern – evidence that the issue resonated among the Republican base but also stoked opposition among Democrats.
Among Republicans, immigration was the top issue with 24 percent citing it. For Democrats, it was healthcare, which registered with 18 percent of voters.
Democrats made healthcare and protecting the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, the central theme of their House and Senate campaigns, warning that people could lose coverage for pre-existing health conditions and other protections if Republicans kept control of Congress.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found robust support for changing the nation’s gun laws. Seven in 10 voters said they wanted “moderate” or “strong” regulations and restrictions for firearms, the poll found.
Emboldened by a spate of school shootings and shift in public opinion, Democrats this cycle embraced limits on firearms after decades of avoiding talking about gun control.
About half of midterm voters want abortion to be legal in “most” or “all” cases, the poll found. A slightly smaller number, four in 10, want abortion to be illegal, the poll found.
For all Reuters election coverage, click: https://www.reuters.com/politics/election2018
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson and Chris Kahn; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Colleen Jenkins and Howard Goller)