Early Exit Poll: 60 Percent Say Economy Top Issue

By  | 

(CBS News) Sixty percent of voters who cast ballots on Election Day or earlier say the economy is the most important issue in their vote, according to an early CBS News exit poll.

In CBS News/New York Times poll of likely voters taken shortly before the election, Mitt Romney had the edge over President Obama on the question of which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, 51 percent to 45 percent.

Seventeen percent of voters cited health care as their top issue. Voters were split on the 2010 health care law: 45 percent wanted to repeal some or all of it, while 47 percent wanted to expand it or keep it as is. Fifteen percent of voters called the deficit their top issue, and 4 percent cited foreign policy.

While 55 percent of voters said Mr. Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy had little to no impact on their vote, four in 10 say it was a factor in their vote. Polls showed Mr. Obama received high marks for his response to the storm.

These are early exit polls, and the figures will change as the evening goes on and more data comes in.

Three in four voters said the economy is in bad condition. Thirty-nine percent said it is getting better, 31 percent said it is getting worse, and 28 percent said it was staying the same. Three in four Obama voters say the economy is getting better, while 59 percent of Romney voters say it's getting worse. Fifty-two percent of voters overall say the nation is on the wrong track, while 46 percent say it is headed in the right direction.

Asked to compare their family finances to four years ago, 24 percent of voters said they are better off today, while 34 percent said they are worse off. Four in 10 say they are about the same. Fifty-three percent said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy, including 77 percent of Obama voters, while 41 percent called it fair to most Americans, including 67 percent of Romney voters.

Voters were split on the most important quality for a candidate. Twenty-nine percent said it was that he have a vision for the future, while 28 percent said it was that he share their values; 20 percent said it was that the candidate cares about people, and 19 percent said it was that he is a strong leader.

Fifty-three percent of voters say the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals, up 10 points from four years ago. That includes 84 percent of Romney voters. Forty-one percent say the government should do more, including 69 percent of Obama voters.

Fifty-two percent say Romney's policies favor the rich. Thirty-six percent say he favors the middle class, while just 2 percent say he favors the poor.

Only 10 percent say Mr. Obama favors the rich. Forty-three percent say he favors the middle class, while 31 percent say he favors the poor.

Only 8 percent say they decided which candidate to support in the last few days. Eleven percent decided in October, 79 percent before that.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.