WASHINGTON (AP) – The Iraq war hurt Republican candidates in the midterm elections, but corruption and scandal were bigger problems for them, exit polls found.

Three-fourths of voters said corruption and scandal were important to their votes, and they were more likely to vote for the Democratic candidates for the House. Iraq was important for just two-thirds, and they also leaned toward Democrats.

In the vote for the U.S. House, Democrats were winning among several groups that have usually been very closely contested – independents, moderates, the middle class and suburban women, according to early exit poll results.

Norman Moore, 70, a retired editor from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., decided to vote for Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. about two or three weeks ago.

“I do think Democratic control of Congress would put the brakes on this administration,” he said.

Those most concerned about scandals and corruption – about four in 10 of all voters – were far more likely to vote Democratic. Most white evangelicals said corruption was very important in their vote and almost a third of them voted Democratic, according to a national exit poll of 8,211 voters conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Terrorism was considered an important issue in the House election by about three-quarters of those polled, but they split between Democrats and Republicans – robbing the GOP of an issue that has been a key to its success in past elections.

Gwen McIntosh, 56, of Cincinnati, is a registered Democrat who voted a straight Democratic ticket. “I know Ken Blackwell (the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Ohio), and I thought about crossing over on that one, but I decided I would stick with the Democrats,” McIntosh said. “I think in the back of my mind I probably was voting against Bush.”

Besides in-person interviews Tuesday, the survey included 1,500 absentee or early voters interviewed by telephone during the past week in 10 states with heavy early voting.

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