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November 7, 2012

Indiana exit poll: Women aid Donnelly victory

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney cruised to victory in Indiana, while Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly won a closely watched U.S. Senate race and Republican Rep. Mike Pence won the governor's contest.

Here's a look at results from an exit poll conducted in Indiana for The Associated Press:

Women voters key for Donnelly

Women may have made the difference in Donnelly's margin over Richard Mourdock, just two weeks after Mourdock's widely publicized comment about rape. Exit polling showed that 52 percent of women voters chose Donnelly, while only 42 percent were for Mourdock. The two were nearly deadlocked among male voters. Mourdock said on Oct. 23 that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended." Donnelly also polled strongly among voters under 50, blacks, those without a college degree, and those with family incomes of under $50,000. Mourdock was stronger among whites, evangelical or born-again voters and Indianapolis residents.

Desconstructing Romney's demographics

Romney's victory in Indiana was helped by big support from a number of demographic groups. He won the support of a wide majority of whites (60 percent), conservatives (85 percent) and those with family incomes of at least $50,000 (59 percent). Romney also was heavily backed by voters over 40.

Obama's support weakens

President Barack Obama, who has polled better among young voters nationwide, managed to do no better than break even with Romney among under-30 Indiana voters. That was significantly weaker than in 2008, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Indiana since 1964. He drew far less support from independent voters and from those with family incomes over $100,000 this time around.

Lugar's lingering impact

Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's presence on the ballot would have made for a completely different Senate race. If Lugar had been the Republican nominee instead of Mourdock, Donnelly would have lost about a quarter of his support to him, exit polls showed. Voters indicated that in a head-to-head showdown between Donnelly and Lugar, a plurality would have preferred Lugar, by 46 percent to 39 percent. Mourdock, the tea party-backed state treasurer, easily knocked the six-term incumbent out of the race in the May primary.

Pence scores with whites, older voters

Pence enjoyed broad support from many of the same groups as Romney. The six-term congressman was backed heavily by whites, voters over 65 and those with family incomes of at least $50,000. Democrat John Gregg was preferred by women by a narrow margin, by blacks, moderates and those with no more than a high school education.

Economy supersedes all issues

Any voter concerns about health care reform, foreign policy or other issues were dwarfed by the economy on Election Day. Six in 10 Indiana voters called the economy the top problem facing the nation — close to four times the number of voters who singled out any other issue. The federal budget deficit and health care were cited by about one in six voters each.

Few better off

Financial progress on the home front since the last presidential election has been limited, according to a majority of Indiana voters. Nearly four in 10 said they're worse off today than they were four years ago, and about the same number said their family's financial situation is no better. Only about a quarter said they are better off today than in 2008.

Government's role

Most voters think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals, while four in 10 think the government should be doing more to solve problems.

The exit poll of 1,539 Indiana voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research in a random sample of 25 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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