They listened to months of name-calling. They watched weeks of nasty TV ads. Now America's voters are answering back in a symphony of disenchantment.

From a senior citizens center in Florida to a cramped office in Brooklyn to the open range of Texas farm country, voters are angry at insiders but leery of outsiders. They are tired of promises but yearning for deliverance.They're wary of get-tough-on-crime talk, worried about health care and immigration and wondering, why, oh why, can't Congress balance its own checkbook the way everybody else does.

Just ask Bill Bryson, a 60-year-old farmer and rancher in Pilot Point, Texas, north of Dallas. He says he has learned the value of a dollar as one of nine children and just wishes the folks on Capitol Hill would, too.

"My dad always taught me it doesn't matter how much you make as long as you save some of it," he said, lifting a pail of grain to feed his prize-winning horses. "Congress could take that advice. No matter what they take in, they spend twice as much."

Bryson wouldn't say whether he intends to vote for Ann Richards, the Democratic governor he respectfully calls "Miss Ann," or her Republican opponent, George W. Bush. During the campaign, Richards attacked Bush as inexperienced and at one point referred to him indirectly as a "jerk."

Neither Bryson nor his wife of 34 years, Betty Dee, a retired social studies teacher, trusts politicians.

"I think they forget who elects them when they get up there," she said. "It's a situation of, `If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.' It's more to get themselves in the limelight to further their own career."

Other voters, though, say the problem isn't that elected officials have turned their backs on voters, but just the opposite - they're too eager to please.

"I think sometimes congressmen are too responsive to voters," said Wallace Russell, 72, a resident of the University Retirement Center in Tampa, Fla. "They listen to phone calls, count up the pros and cons and decide the issue on popularity."

Take crime, for instance, and the crowd-pleasing pledges to crack down with new laws, longer sentences and more prison cells.

"What does toughness mean? Build more prisons?" asked Russell, a registered Democrat and former dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of South Florida. "I wonder if they think if 5 million (people) are in prison, we'll have no more problems."

Crime was the centerpiece of Florida's rancorous campaign for governor. An ad by Republican challenger Jeb Bush showed a distraught mother criticizing incumbent Democrat Lawton Chiles because her daughter's murderer was still on death row more than a decade after the crime. In fact, Chiles has had no chance to act on the case, which has been trapped in the courts.

Another Florida resident, Neil Paulson, a 39-year lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases, says he'd like to see roadside chain gangs to deal with crime, but quickly adds that elected officials can't solve all of society's problems.

"I think government has been stretched into every crevice imaginable, and it can't go any further," said Paulson, leaning back in a dark-leather executive chair in his downtown Orlando, Fla., office. "Hopefully it will do less in the future than it is doing now."

Still other voters say the answer isn't less government - but more.

Johnny Deyesso, owner of a produce stand at Boston's Haymarket, worries about crime and health care, and as a lifelong Democrat, he blames Republican leaders Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich for being obstructionists.

"I think right now the Republicans are holding everything back," said Deyesso, a "Cheers" cap shading his eyes from the bright autumn sun shining on stacks of pears and oranges.

"I need health care and I know I'm not going to get it unless we get the Democrats in there," he said, explaining that he is covered by Medicare because of a disability, but can't afford coverage for his wife.

Margaret Wacks, a 51-year-old Massachusetts doctor, blames the failure of health-care reform on partisanship in Congress.

"Sometimes they don't even listen to what the legislation is," she said, fighting for balance while skating down a bike path in the upscale community of Lexington, Mass.

But Clinton, too, deserves the blame, said Wacks, who supported the president in 1992. "I think he made it much too complicated and he turned everyone off."

Don Catberro, owner of an auto repair shop on Chicago's far Northwest Side, said the president should be given credit just for tackling tough issues.

"Clinton is trying new things, even though some of them are unpopular and don't work," he said. "At least, he's making the attempt. . . . Republicans and Democrats need to get together as a team. Do I really think it's going to happen? No. Not the way it should."

Despite all the nation's problems, one voter remains an optimist.

Oleg Shapiro, a 34-year-old Russian Jew who emigrated to the United States at the age of 15, praises the country's democratic principles.

But the New Yorker is also worried about Proposition 187, a controversial ballot initiative in California that would punish illegal immigrants by denying them public services.

"Everybody in this country is from somewhere else," said Shapiro, sitting in the back office of his business, a private post office in the predominantly Russian community of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

"The reason this country has prospered and is what it is today . . . is because of people who came here from all over and brought so much of their countries with them. That is why we will always be a step ahead."


Additional Information

TV to carry updates

Network election coverage will interrupt regular television schedules. The three major networks plan updates throughout the evening with CBS planning two-hour coverage beginning at about 9 p.m. MST. PBS is to air a one-hour special edition of "MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour." ABC and NBC are planning one-hour election specials. ABC expects to continue coverage after local newscasts; NBC's "Tonight" is scheduled to air; CBS' "Late Show" is dark, and the network may continue election coverage after local newscasts if warranted.

CNN and C-SPAN devote their entire Tuesday schedules to election coverage and analysis.