SIX in 10 voters picked the economy as the most important issue facing the U.S., overwhelming other problems named. Barack Obama was doing strongly with this group _ six in 10 of those naming the economy were backing the Democrat. The other issues listed in the survey _ Iraq, energy, terrorism and health care _ were all picked by one in 10 or less.
Further underlining voters' preoccupation with the economy, nine in 10 said it is in bad shape and about the same number said they are worried about the economy's direction. Nearly six in 10 of both those groups were backing Obama.
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. Overall, six in 10 new voters were under age 30, one in five were black and another one in five were Hispanic _ all far greater than their share of the population overall. All of those groups were voting overwhelmingly for Obama. In addition, half were Democrats, compared to the four in 10 new voters who were Democrats in 2004.
These new Democrats were almost unanimously for Obama. A third of this year's new voters were independents _ and about two-thirds were favoring Obama. New voters were making up about one in seven Obama supporters but only about one in 20 of Republican John McCain's.
THE PALIN FACTOR
Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, was a big factor in the voting _ in both directions.
A third of 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 would support. Underscoring how well she fired up the party's base, both of those groups leaned heavily toward McCain.
But her choice had the opposite effect on other voters: About a quarter of independents said Palin's selection had an important impact on their decision, and nearly six in 10 of them were supporting Obama. Nearly half of moderates also said her choice was a factor _ and six in 10 of them were Obama voters.
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, about six in 10 were voting for McCain.
Altogether, more than half of whites were backing McCain, giving him a slender edge in a group that President George W. Bush carried by 17 percentage points in 2004. White women were about evenly divided between the two candidates, while just over half of white men were supporting McCain.
One group Obama has had trouble with all year _ whites who have not finished college _ were leaning solidly toward McCain, almost approaching the 23-point margin by which Bush won them in 2004.
Virtually all blacks were supporting Obama. But 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 and Hispanics just under one in 10 _ both about the same as their share of voters in 2004.
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.
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 SUBURBS _ AND OTHER SWING GROUPS
Obama had a narrow lead among suburban residents, who comprised about half of all voters. Bush won these voters by 5 percentage points in 2004. McCain and Obama were running about evenly among white Catholics, another pivotal voting bloc. Bush carried white Catholics handily in 2004 and 2000.
SEX AND AGE
Nearly six in 10 women were Obama voters, while men divided their votes about evenly.
More than two-thirds of people under age 30 were backing Obama, while those age 65 and up were tilting slightly toward McCain.
According to the early 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.
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.
Independents were voting for Obama by a modest margin.
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. Nearly nine in 10 voters who said they had voted in the primaries for the New York senator and former first lady said they 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 six in 10 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.
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.
Six in 10 voters said future appointments to the Supreme Court were an important factor in their vote. This group leaned slightly toward Obama.
Two-thirds favor drilling for oil offshore in U.S. waters. Six in 10 of them were
More than half oppose the $700 billion government plan to help failing financial companies. These voters were about equally split between McCain and Obama. AP