Exit polls show voters lean toward GOP compared to 2008

Early exit polls show Election Day voters are slightly more Republican than in 2008 and broadly concerned about the state of the U.S. economy.

Six in 10 voters said the economy is their top issue according to the poll, which was released by The Associated Press and conducted on behalf of a consortium of media companies.

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Less than a quarter of voters said their families were better off than four years ago — a point seized on by many Republicans as the results leaked out.

"Exit polls show 60% of voters say economy is #1 issue. In poll just today, @MittRomney led by 6 on the economy. #LookinGood," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul tweeted.

While more voters (39 percent) said the economy was improving than getting worse (31 percent), only 46 percent said the country was on the “right track.” Fifty-two percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction.

The survey also showed that most voters had already made up their mind before the election’s final days. Only eight percent of respondents said they recently decided which candidate they would select.

While the exit polls could give a good sense of the mood of Election Day voters, a large number of people voted before Nov. 6. In Ohio, for example, about a third of likely voters had voted by Monday. Early voters are thought to swing toward Obama.

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter earlier on Monday argued her side was “where we need to be to win” because of early voters.

“We’ve already banked a pretty big portion of our vote,” she said.

Polls released by CBS News showed that President Obama was seen by more voters as the candidate whose policies would favor the middle class. Some 43 percent of those surveyed said the president's policies favored the middle class, while one in 10 said he favored the rich. For Romney, just over a third of voters said his policies would favor the middle class, while some 52 percent said they would favor the wealthiest Americans.

Some had speculated that President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy could buoy the president's prospects in the election's closing days.

More than half of all voters — 55 percent — said the storm response had no bearing on their vote, while 26 percent named the storm as an “important” issue and just 15 percent said it was the “most important” factor in their vote.

Early waves of state-by-state exit polls were also posted by Political Wire and splashed prominently on the Drudge Report. Those surveys — which are notoriously unreliable — showed the race tied in Virginia and Colorado. Mitt Romney posted one-point leads in North Carolina and Florida, while the president held three-point leads in New Hampshire and Iowa, and four-point leads in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.