RENO, Nev. (AP) — The economy was first and foremost on the minds of Nevada voters as they cast ballots Tuesday for president in the key battleground state, with 6 out of 10 identifying it as the most important issue facing the country, preliminary exit poll numbers show.
In a state that has suffered some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the nation since helping elect President Barack Obama in 2008, voters in the state cited the economy as their top concern far more often than health care, the federal deficit or foreign policy.
Nearly three-fourths describe the U.S. economic condition as poor or "not so good," according to the preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research in a random statewide sample.
But about 4 out of 10 Nevada voters surveyed think the economy is getting better. Three out of 10 think it's getting worse and a similar amount think it's about the same.
About 4 in 10 Nevada voters said their own family's financial situation is worse today than it was four years ago, but about a quarter said they are in better shape and the rest about the same.
Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney poured tens of millions of dollars into Nevada to blanket the airwaves with ads in pursuit of the state's coveted electoral votes that could settle the presidency. But the exit polling Tuesday suggests a lot of the money spent down the stretch was a waste — nearly three-fourths of Nevada voters said they had settled on their choice for president before Labor Day.
In regard to campaign issues, Nevada voters overwhelmingly say that abortion should remain legal, only about one-third think it should be against the law.
On health care, voters are almost split on whether they believe that it should be expanded, left as is, or completely or partially repealed.
When it comes to immigration, 6 in 10 voters believe that illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be offered a chance to apply for legal status. Half as many want illegal immigrants deported.
The survey of 3,089 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 47 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 1,104 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.