Only a fourth of voters thought they were better off financially than four years ago when Obama was elected in the midst of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. Voters were most likely to say their families were doing about the same — 4 in 10 thought so — but apparently that was good enough. Obama led strongly among that group.
Nearly 6 in 10 voters ranked the economy the top issue, dwarfing health care, the federal budget deficit or foreign policy.
Joseph Neat, a stay-at-home father in Hagerstown, Md., said Obama hasn't solved the problems that are hurting families like his, especially gasoline prices that Neat called “insane.”
“We don't have time for him to make changes. We need the changes now,” he said of Obama. “And four years is plenty of time.”
Overall, 52 percent of voters thought the nation was seriously off on the wrong track instead of going in the right direction — usually a bad sign for an incumbent.
And Romney's campaign against big government seemed to strike a chord. In preliminary results, about half — 51 percent — said government is doing too many things that should be left to the private sector, while 43 percent wanted government to do more. That's a reversal from four years ago.
Voters also reflected the anti-Wall Street protests and growing concerns about income inequality: 55 percent said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy. About half said taxes should be raised on income over $250,000 per year, as Obama wants.
Almost 1 in 10 said they'd only settled on their presidential choice within the last few days or even on Election Day, and they favored Obama 50-44. Sixty-four percent of all voters said Obama's response to the devastation from Superstorm Sandy was a factor in their vote.
The survey of 25,565 voters was conducted for the AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 350 precincts nationally Tuesday, as well as 4,408 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 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius, Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writers David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., and Todd Richmond in Sun Prairie, Wis., contributed to this report.
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