ANALYSIS By MOLLYANNE BRODIE, SCOTT CLEMENT, PEYTON CRAIGHILL, CLAUDIA DEANE, BRIAN HARTMAN, GARY LANGER, RICH MORIN, PATRICK MOYNIHAN, and ROBERT SHAPIRO
An astonishing number of voters went to the polls anxious -- worried about health care, upset with the current president, opposed to the war in Iraq and deeply concerned that the nation's economy is veering off the rails.
Preliminary exit poll data finds a remarkable 75 percent say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track. That's up from 46 percent in 2004, 31 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1996.
Eighty-five percent of voters said they were worried about direction of the nation's economy, and half of them were very very worried. Why are they worried? Because 81 percent worry the economic crisis is going to harm their family finances. If there's any optimism in these numbers, it's that a lucky few -- 24 percent -- say they're better off than four years ago.
But worries extend beyond the economy. Nearly seven in 10 voters say they're worried about being able to afford health care. Six in 10 disapprove of the war in Iraq. Seven in 10 disapprove of how both President Bush and the Congress are doing their jobs.
That's a strong headwind for John McCain, the flagbearer of the incumbent party. And it's not helped by the 60 percent of voters who say his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, is not qualified to be president.
Voters were also more likely to say McCain attacked Barack Obama unfairly -- 65 percent said so, though about half said Obama's hands were dirty on this front as well.
And many voters are expecting to government to dig deeper into their pocketbooks no matter who wines. About half -- 48 percent -- say their taxes will rise under either Obama or McCain. Despite McCain's push on the issue, just 22 percent think only Obama would raise their taxes.
There's a real enthusiasm gap. More than half -- 56 percent --of Obama's supporters are "excited" about the prospect of his becoming president. Among McCain's supporters, just 28 percent are excited.
With that weighing on their minds, about one in 10 voters waited til nearly the last minute -- making their decision in just the last week. The campaigns fought hard to win their votes. A third of all voters say they were contacted by one or both campaigns.
With a black candidate running for the president, turnout of black voters as a percentage of the national vote was at 13 percent, slightly higher than in 2004.
We've also had a chance to review some the exit poll data in the most hard-fought states. Note this is preliminary exit poll data and will be updated throughout the evening. Here's a look at what we're seeing so far. The analyses are organized below by poll close.
Keep checking back throughout the evening. We'll update each state with a more detailed look at the voters and their motivations of voters in a state after the polls close and more up-to-date exit poll data comes in.
Our list of battleground exit polls to watch is ordered by poll close.
Polls Closing at 7 p.m. ET: