The 2014 midterm election comes at a time when many Americans are anxious about world events. A lot of negative news confronted Americans – and was woven into campaigns – in the final weeks before this election. The NBC News exit poll found that voters across the nation offered varying opinions on the government’s response to these concerns.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the isolated cases in the U.S., has dominated the news cycle leading up to Election Day. A majority of voters -- 60% -- said they have been following news about Ebola. A Pew Research Center study from mid-October found that the public’s interest in Ebola eclipsed other major news stories, including airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the midterm election itself.
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Voters are pretty evenly divided on the U.S. government’s response to Ebola, with 52% disapproving and just 42% of voters approving, according to the NBC News national exit poll. Voters seemed to respond to the question of the government's response along partisan lines, though. About two-thirds of Democrats -- 68% -- approve, but only about one-quarter of Republicans – 30% -- give positive marks to the federal government’s handling of Ebola.
The Obama administration has much more support for the current U.S. military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Overall, 58% of voters today approve of those efforts. And that approval crosses party lines. Sixty-one percent of Democrats and nearly as many Republicans -- 56% -- approve of the current military strikes against the Islamic terror group, which has executed a number of western citizens and taken control of swaths of Syria and northern Iraq.
While U.S. officials have emphasized that ISIS does not pose an imminent threat to the American homeland, 7-in-10 voters -- 71% -- expressed concern that there will be another major terror attack in the U.S. That’s similar to 2004, just three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, when 75% of American voters said they were worried.
A number of candidates in tight Senate races tried to make this an issue in their campaigns.
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Former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, has warned that Islamic militants are “threatening to cause the collapse of our country.” Overall, most New Hampshire voters – 74% -- are worried about a terror attack in the U.S., according to the NBC News exit poll in the state. Among the 1-in-4 New Hampshire voters who are very worried about a terror attack, 73% supported Brown.
The issue took a personal turn in the race for Georgia’s open Senate seat. GOP candidate David Perdue claimed that his Democratic opponent Michelle Nunn “funded organizations linked to terrorists,” a reference to her time as head of the Points of Light Foundation, a non-partisan organization that grew out of an idea expressed by former President George H.W. Bush. Bush endorsed Purdue in this race. Overall, 71% of Georgia voters are worried about another major terror attack. Among the 1-in-3 Georgia voters who are very worried about a terror attack, 72% voted for Perdue.
Visit NBC News Decision 2014 for more exit poll results and election returns.