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What exit polls say about Ohio voters


COLUMBUS — Preliminary results of voters’ views of Tuesday's elections, according to an exit poll conducted in Ohio for The Associated Press:


Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown withstood slipping popularity among older voters and independents to win a second term. A supporter of the auto bailout, he got the backing of a majority of Ohioans who agreed with giving federal money to General Motors and Chrysler. Union households were also decisively behind him. Brown's core support came from young people, voters who had not gone beyond high school and low-income voters. Brown support did tumble among Catholics as well as middle income voters compared with six years ago when he was first elected to the Senate. He won the urban vote overwhelmingly and split the suburban vote. Republican challenger Josh Mandel did well among his base, including upper income voters, Evangelical Christians and those concerned about taxes.


While most Ohio voters agree that the economy was the top issue in this year's election, they were split on what direction it's headed. Close to a third of the state's voters thought the nation's economy was getting better while almost the same number thought it was getting worse. Four in 10 thought their own family's finances had not changed since President Barack Obama was elected while a similar number saw it getting better or worse. Despite all that, Ohioans have a slightly brighter view of the nation's economy than they did four years ago, possibly because the state's unemployment rate is better than the national average. Still, seven in 10 thought the economy was in bad shape. Voters were almost evenly split when on whether Democrat Obama or Republican Mitt Romney would better handle the economy


There's a reason why Ohio is the ultimate swing state. Many groups were divided down the middle between Obama and Romney. Middle age voters and those nearing retirement age were split about equally as were voters who had continued their education beyond high school. Married women and middle income voters with a family income of $50,000-$100,000 also split closely between the two candidates.


Obama's team targeted college campuses for young voters and they tilted heavily again toward him while older voters favored the Republican again. In 2008, Obama won across all age groups except those 65 and older. But this year voters who are approaching retirement age and worried about Social Security and their retirement savings were more evenly split.


As expected, Obama got solid backing in the Cleveland area, including in Cuyahoga County where four years ago he picked up one of every six votes he won in Ohio. Romney got strong backing in northwest Ohio where conservative counties often put issues such as abortion and gay marriage ahead of other economic concerns. The two were running even in the Columbus area, southwest Ohio and the eastern Appalachian part of the state.


All of the time and money both campaigns spent in Ohio the last month might have helped turn out their supporters, but it didn't flip many votes. About three out of four voters said they had made up their minds before the last two months of the campaign. Those who waited until the final month were almost evenly divided between the two candidates. Four years ago Ohio voters waited longer to decide, with six in 10 making their choice before September.

The survey of 3,754 Ohio voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 50 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 504 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 26 through Nov. 3. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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