Approximately 82.5 million people voted. The Democratic Party suffered massive defeats in many national and state level elections, with many seats switching to Republican Party control. Although the President's party usually loses congressional, statewide and local seats in midterm elections, the 2010 midterm election season featured some of the biggest losses since the Great Depression. The Republican Party gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, recapturing the majority, and making it the largest seat change since 1948 and the largest for any midterm election since the 1938 midterm elections. The Republicans gained six seats in the U.S. Senate, expanding its minority, and also gained 680 seats in state legislative races, to break the previous majority record of 628 set by Democrats in the post-Watergate elections of 1974. This left Republicans in control of 26 state legislatures, compared to the 15 still controlled by Democrats. After the election, Republicans took control of 29 of the 50 State Governorships.
The 2010 midterm election is also the third consecutive midterm election held in a president's first term where Republicans picked up seats across both houses of Congress. It was also the second consecutive midterm election where party control in the House of Representatives changed hands.
Political analysts in October 2010 predicted sweeping Republican gains this election, but despite a reported "enthusiasm gap" between likely Republican and Democratic voters, turnout increased relative to the last U.S. midterm elections without any significant shift in voters' political identification. The swaying views of self-declared independent voters, however, were largely responsible for the shift from Democratic to Republican gains.
Candidates and voters in 2010 focused on national economic conditions and the economic policies of the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats. Attention was paid to public anger over the Wall Street bailout signed into law by President George W. Bush in late 2008. Voters were also motivated for and against the sweeping reforms of the health care system enacted by Democrats in 2010, as well as concerns over tax rates and record deficits. At the time of the election, unemployment was over 9%, and had not declined significantly since Barack Obama had become President. Further eroding public trust in Congress were a series of scandals that saw Democratic Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, as well as Republican Senator John Ensign, all accused of unethical and/or illegal conduct in the months leading up to the 2010 election.
The fiscally-focused and quasi-libertarian Tea Party movement was a vocal force in mobilizing voters for Republican candidates nationwide. Their widespread exposure in the media contributed to the election's focus on economic, rather than social, issues. In the opinion of Fox News political analyst Dick Morris, a "fundamental change" occurred in which social issues did not dominate Republican activism in 2010, because "economic and fiscal issues prevail. The Tea Party has made the Republican Party safe for libertarians."