Exit Polls at a glance

November 5, 2008 12:43:27 AM PST
Preliminary results from a national Associated Press exit poll of voters in Tuesday's elections:

THE ECONOMY DOMINATES - AND NOTHING ELSE COMES CLOSE
Overwhelming all other problems, more than six in 10 voters picked the economy as the most important issue facing the nation. Barack Obama had a clear edge with this group, leading John McCain among them by about 9 percentage points. All the other issues listed in the survey - Iraq, energy, terrorism and health care - were picked by one in 10 or fewer.

Four in 10 said their family financial status was worse than four years ago - the highest number to report that in a presidential race since at least 1992. Seven in 10 of this group were voting for Obama.

Overall, while four in 10 of McCain's voters said they are very worried the economy's problems will hurt their family finances over the next year, six in 10 of Obama's said the same.

Further underlining voters' preoccupation with the economy, nine in 10 said it is in bad shape and nearly the same number said they are worried about the economy's direction. Obama led McCain with those voters by about 10 percentage points.

Half of independents and nearly as many whites who say the economy is in bad shape voted for Obama. That was a far better than he did with independents and whites who think the economy is doing well.

NEW VOTERS GO FOR OBAMA IN A BIG WAY
About one in 10 voters said this was the first year they have voted - roughly the same proportion of new voters as in 2004. About seven in 10 of them were voting for Obama. Two thirds of new voters were under age 30, one in five were black and nearly as many five were Hispanic - all far exceeding their share of overall voters. All of those groups were voting overwhelmingly for Obama. In addition, nearly half were Democrats, compared to the four in 10 new voters who were Democrats in 2004. These new Democrats were almost unanimously backing Obama. A third of this year's new voters were independents - and about two-thirds of them were favoring Obama. New voters were making up about one in seven Obama supporters, about double McCain's share.

BUSH'S SHADOW
As much as President Bush tried to stay out of this year's presidential race, his gravitational pull was huge.

Voters were split about evenly over whether McCain would follow Bush's policies. Those who said McCain would follow Bush gave nine in 10 of their votes to Obama. Almost as many who said McCain would carve his own path voted for the Arizona Republican.

A look inside those numbers shows the damage plainly. Four in 10 independents said McCain would continue Bush policies, and about nine in 10 of them voted for Obama. Even one in seven Republicans thought McCain would follow Bush. Of them, more than four in 10 voted for Obama.

Overall, nearly one in five who said they voted for Bush in 2004 said they were backing Obama.

THE PALIN FACTOR
Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, was a big factor in the voting - in both directions.

More than four in 10 Republicans and about the same share of conservatives said McCain's choice of the Alaska governor as his running mate was an important factor in deciding who they'd support. Underscoring how well she fired up the party's base, both of those groups leaned lopsidedly toward McCain.

But about four in 10 independents said Palin's selection had an important impact on their decision, and a narrow majority of them were supporting Obama. About the same number of moderates also said her choice was a factor - and almost six in 10 of them were Obama voters.

Overall, just shy of four in 10 said Palin was qualified to become president if necessary, while two-thirds said the same about her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden. Two thirds of independents said Palin was not qualified, and three quarters of this group voted for Obama. Nearly a quarter of Republicans said Palin was not qualified, and over a third of them voted for Obama.

THE ROLE OF RACE
Nearly one in 10 whites said race was an important factor in selecting a candidate, though only a tiny fraction said it was the most important factor. In both groups, nearly two-thirds were voting for McCain.

Altogether, more than half of whites were backing McCain, giving him more than a 10-percentage-point edge with those voters. Still, that was less than President Bush's advantage of 17 percentage points with that group in 2004. Nearly six in 10 white men and nearly as many white women were backing the Republican.

The struggle for the white vote - about three-quarters of all voters - had a distinctly regional flavor. McCain was getting about two-thirds of white votes in the South - about the same edge President Bush enjoyed in 2004. Among whites in the rest of the country, McCain led by a hair. Bush won non-Southern whites by 7 percentage points four years ago.

One group Obama has had trouble with all year - whites who haven't finished college - was leaning strongly toward McCain, approaching the 23-point margin by which Bush won them in 2004.

Virtually all blacks were supporting Obama. While Bush got about one in 10 black votes in 2004, McCain got almost none of their votes this year.

About two-thirds of Hispanics were also behind Obama. That was significantly stronger than the 53 percent who backed Democrat John Kerry four years ago.

Blacks were comprising just over one in 10 voters, slightly more than their share in 2004. Hispanics just under one in 10, about the same as four years ago.

... AND LOOKING AHEAD
About half of all voters said they expect race relations to improve over the next few years, a third expect relations to stay the same, and one in seven think they will get worse.

But there were clear differences between the races in their expectations. About four in 10 whites and six in 10 blacks expect better race relations, while more whites than blacks expect things to stay the same.

Nearly three in 10 whites and one in seven Hispanics said the prospects of an Obama presidency made them scared. The idea of a President McCain left about a quarter of whites, a quarter of Hispanics and six in 10 blacks feeling scared.

MCCAIN'S AGE
One in seven said the fact that McCain would enter the White House at age 72 was an important factor in their vote, though only a handful called it the most important factor. Overall, about three-quarters of both those groups voted for Obama. Strikingly, a third of Republicans and three-quarters of independents who called McCain's age an important factor voted for the Democrat.

THE BATTLE FOR THE BURBS - AND OTHER SWING GROUPS
Obama and McCain divided suburban residents equally, a voting bloc that comprised half of all voters. Bush won these voters by 5 percentage points in 2004.

Just over half of white Catholics backed McCain, as the Republican fell short of the 13-percentage-point edge Bush had with this pivotal group in 2004. Married women, who often divide closely between the two parties, favored McCain by a modest margin.

HILLARY'S HORDES
Remember the doubts about what Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters would do when the Democratic primaries finally ended? That question has been answered - and resoundingly in Obama's favor. More than eight in 10 voters who said they'd voted in the primaries for the New York senator and former first lady said they were voting for Obama.

THE FEAR FACTOR
Half of Republicans, about the same number of conservatives and a quarter of independents said the same thing. As if returning the favor, half of Democrats and liberals and a quarter of independents said a McCain presidency would scare them.

On the other end of the scale, Obama's backers exhibited far more enthusiasm for an Obama presidency than McCain's did for putting him into the White House. A quarter of conservatives and three in 10 Republicans said a McCain presidency seemed exciting; over half of Democrats and liberals felt excitement over the prospects of a President Obama.

SEX AND AGE
Nearly six in 10 women were Obama voters, while men divided their votes about evenly.

Two-thirds of people under age 30 were backing Obama, easily the best showing with this age group for Democrats since at least 1992. Those age 65 and up were tilting slightly toward McCain.

According to the preliminary results, people under age 30 - heavily courted by Obama- were comprising just under one in five voters, roughly the same proportion of all voters as in 2004.

PARTY MATTERS
About four in 10 voters were Democrats while about a third were Republicans. Roughly nine in 10 Democrats were backing Obama, and about the same number of Republicans were supporting McCain.

Just over half of independents were voting for Obama.

CHANGE TRUMPS EXPERIENCE
More than a third of voters said they most wanted a candidate who would bring change to Washington, and they were voting heavily for Obama. Nearly as many said they wanted someone who shares their values, and two-thirds of those voters preferred McCain. About one in five were looking most for experience, a group that heavily favored McCain. A smaller portion were seeking a candidate who cares about people like them, and they favored Obama.

THE BIG ISSUE THAT WASN'T
A year ago the Iraq war was the big issue, but it faded in importance. Still, the war remains unpopular, and distaste for the conflict helped Obama. Nearly two-thirds disapprove of the conflict, and that group overwhelmingly backed the Democrat.

OTHER WORRIES
Two-thirds of voters said they were worried about being able to afford the health care they need. Of this group, about six in 10 were supporting Obama. On an issue that had been one of McCain's strengths during the campaign, about seven in 10 voters said they worry that there will be another terrorist attack in the United States. Those voters, though, were about evenly divided between the two candidates.

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The results were from exit polling by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks conducted in 300 precincts nationally. The preliminary data was based on 17,244 voters, including telephone polling of 2,407 people who voted early, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1 percentage point for the entire sample, smaller for subgroups.


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