I think, first and foremost, it was a referendum on the economy. And the party in power was held responsible for an economy that is still underperforming and where a lot of folks are still hurting. I mean, we've got 9.6 percent unemployment. We've got higher than that underemployment. A lot of folks who would like to be working full time can't work full time. Families are struggling paying the bills. People have seen their home values decline all across the country. In some cases, so that they're under water. Their house is worth less than the cost of their mortgage.
And so, people I think expect that we would have made more progress than we have on the economic front. And I think that was uppermost on people's minds.
I do think that what was also true was that there are a lot of folks in this country who voted for me, hoping that we were gonna be able to get Washington to work again. And what they've seen over the last two years is a lot of partisan bickering. A lot of the same chronic problems that we've seen in Washington over the last several decades now. And that frustrated them. And I think they rightly said, "Okay, President Obama, you said you were gonna do something about this. We haven't seen enough change in Washington." And so in both those instances, I think people rightly said, "You're the President, you committed and promised that we would see changes. We haven't seen as many changes as we'd like. And we're gonna hold you accountable for it."
The economy did hurt the Democrats, but it did not account for the size of their defeat. In 1982, unemployment was even worse than it is today (10.4 percent in October, on its way to a high of 10.8 percent in November). The president's party -- the Republicans in 1982 -- suffered a net loss of 14 percent of their House seats. In 2010, that percentage would work out to 36 seats -- not enough for a shift in control. Instead, Democrats dropped more than 60 seats.