RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Strong support from voters who were white, male and older helped carry Republican Mitt Romney to victory over President Barack Obama in closely contested North Carolina and to elect Pat McCrory as the state's first GOP governor in 20 years.
Romney and McCrory also fared best among those who said the economy was the most important issue, according to the results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. Among other findings:
Seven in 10 voters Tuesday were white, and two-thirds of them chose Romney. One in 5 voters were age 65 or over, and more than 6 in 10 of them picked the former Massachusetts governor. The Republican also had a clear lead among the 6 in 10 voters who said the economy was their top issue. He got the support of 2 of 5 voters who called themselves moderate, a clear improvement over Republican John McCain's performance in 2008.
African-Americans comprised about a quarter of the state's voters, and 19 out of 20 of them voted for President Barack Obama. One in five voters said health care was their most important issue, and the Democrat picked up three-quarters of those voters. One in five voters said the most important quality in a president is that he cares about people like themselves, and Obama received three-quarters of those votes.
One in 6 voters were age 18 to 29, and Obama got two-thirds of those votes. But it was a significant decline from 2008. Obama picked up nearly half the voters in rural areas of the state in 2008, but that dropped to just more than one-third in 2012.
ECONOMY IS NO. 1 ISSUE
Voters were split on whether Obama or Romney would do a better job of handling the economy. Rising prices and unemployment were the economic issues that voters said hit them the hardest. Slightly more than 1 in 5 voters said they were better off now than four years ago. Four in 10 voters said Obama was more to blame for the country's economic problems, while about half of voters blamed former President George W. Bush.
There wasn't much change in the gender or race of North Carolina voters in 2012 compared to four years ago. Slightly more women than men voted. Seven in 10 voters were white, while about a quarter of voters were black.
About 1 in 4 voters said they were enthusiastic about Obama's administration, and about 1 in 4 said they were satisfied with the president. About 3 in 10 voters said they were dissatisfied and 2 in 10 said they were angry with the president. One in 10 of the voters who were dissatisfied with Obama still voted for him.
About 1 in 6 Obama voters split their ticket and cast ballots for McCrory.
Just one-third of voters said they supported same-sex marriage, similar to support for an amendment voted on last May that defined marriage as only between a woman and a man. Obama has thrown his support behind gay marriage since the 2008 election.
About 3 of 5 voters want some or all of Obama's health care law repealed. Seven of 10 voters who want to see some of the law repealed voted for Romney. Two in 10 voters said health care was their most important issue, and three-quarters of them voted for Obama.
Slightly more than half of all voters said that government is doing too many things better left to individuals and businesses. Romney was picked by about three-quarters of those voters.
MIND MADE UP
About 3 in 4 voters said they decided on a presidential candidate before September, when the Democratic National Convention was held to Charlotte. About 3 in 10 voters said they had been contacted on behalf of Obama during the campaign, while slightly fewer than that share had been contacted by Romney's campaign.
FROM AROUND HERE
A slim majority of voters were born in North Carolina.
About 1 in 5 voters said they go to church more than once a week. About 3 of 5 of them voted for Romney. About 1 in 8 voters said they never attended church and Obama picked up two-thirds of their votes.
McCrory got his biggest boost from the 6 in 10 people who said the economy was their biggest issue. He won 3 out of 5 of their votes. Most of the 1 in 5 people who said health care was the most important issue voted for Democrat Walter Dalton.
The survey of 4,341 North Carolina voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes results from interviews with voters as they left a random sample of 50 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 926 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 26 - Nov. 3. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.