Working Class White Voters: Nine out of 10 voters have been white in recent elections, and here in the heartland of manufacturing a good number of them are working class, earning less than $50,000 a year. In 2004, working class whites were 36 percent of voters and they favored Bush over Kerry by 16 points -- 58 percent to 42 percent. But will these voters cast their lot with a black candidate? In the Democratic primaries, one in 10 said race was important and 78 percent of them voted against Obama.
Conservatives: Voters have been more conservative here than in the rest of the country. In 2004, 42 percent conservative, compared with 34 percent nationally. It will be worth watching whether McCain, who was not exciting this GOP base group before he picked Sarah Palin, will draw his wing men (and women) to the polls.
Economy: Economic issues are paramount to voters everywhere this year -- but particularly in Ohio. With at least half a million residents out of work, the state's highest unemployment rate in 16 years, six in 10 voters named the economy as their top issue in this preliminary exit poll. Nine out of ten say they are worried about the direction of the economy.
Party: In 2004, 40 percent of voters identified themselves as Republicans. This year -- that dropped to 30 percent. It was the lowest Republican turnout on record in the state of Ohio. And Obama won the 29 percent of independents, that critical swing group, by a 52-45 percent margin.
Working Class Whites: White voters who earn less than $50,000 a year were a weak group for Obama in the Democratic primary, but he turned them around in the general election. They made up 34 percent of the vote -- their smallest proportion since 1984 and they voted for Obama over McCain 52-45 percent.
Economy: With at least half a million residents out of work, the state's highest unemployment rate in 16 years, six in 10 voters named the economy as their top issue. Obama won them 55-45 percent. About as many said they are very worried about the direction of the economy and Obama won them by an even wider margin -- 61-38 percent. Whites who cite the economy as their top issue split evenly between Obama and McCain - moving him to the best showing among whites in Ohio for a Democrat since 1996.
Time of Decision: A month before the election, our polling found nearly one in five voters had not yet made up their minds for sure. And this is one of the states that McCain decided to contest right down to the wire. Given the fierce battle for this state, also look at whether voters say they were personally contacted by either campaign. In our pre-election polling, 37 percent of registered voters said they had been personally contacted by the Obama campaign, compared to 27 percent for McCain.
Black Voters: About one in five voters this year was black, according to preliminary exit poll data, down slightly from a quarter of the electorate in 2004. Note this is measures a proportion of the vote.
Change vs. Values: About a third of voters said a candidate who would bring about needed change was most important to their vote, as many who said they were looking for a candidate who "shares my values."
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