Some preliminary results from an Associated Press exit poll of Maine voters in Tuesday’s elections:
In the U.S. Senate race, 4 in 10 voters described themselves as independents, and two-thirds of them backed fellow independent Angus King, the winner over Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill. King, a former governor, also picked up two-thirds of the Democrats and more than a fifth of the Republicans.
Democrats held a slim edge in the U.S. Senate going into Tuesday’s elections, and Maine voters who want to keep it that way slightly outnumbered those who want Republicans in charge. King won three-quarters of those who want Democrats to control the Senate, along with a quarter of those who want Republicans in charge.
College graduates made up half the electorate, and close to six in 10 of them favored King, who also drew strong support from voters whose annual family income was over $100,000.
Though roughly eight in 10 Maine voters characterized the U.S. economy as not so good or poor, they split nearly evenly on whether it is getting better, worse or staying the same. By a slight margin, voters said President Barack Obama would handle the economy better than Republican Mitt Romney.
More than half of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the nation. Neither Obama nor Romney had an advantage among that group, but Obama was stronger among the roughly 20 percent of voters who said health care was the most important, and the smaller percentage who cited the federal budget deficit.
Asked about a range of economic troubles, 4 in 10 said the biggest problem facing people like them is rising prices. That was more than the percentage who answered unemployment or taxes and far more than said the housing market. Romney was slightly ahead among those who cited taxes, but Obama won the other groups.
About four in 10 voters said their family’s financial situation has improved in the last few years. Among the rest, about twice as many said their situation has gotten worse than said it has gotten better. Romney won among those who said they are worse off, but Obama was backed by the other two categories.
About three in 10 said choosing someone with a vision for the future was a key factor in their vote for president, with a similar number saying that voting for someone who shares their values was the most important. Smaller percentages – about 1 in 5 – prioritized picking a strong leader or someone who cares about people like them.
About 6 in 10 said they strongly favored the candidate they ultimately picked. Obama picked up most of those voters, but was also slightly ahead of Romney among those who said dislike for the other candidate motivated their vote. Romney was the favorite about the quarter of voters who said they liked their candidate, but with reservations.
Minds made up
Eight in 10 voters said they made up their minds about a presidential candidate before October. More than 1 in 10 decided in the last few days.
The preliminary exit poll of 2,117 voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research in a random sample of 35 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.