Early exit poll: 60 percent say economy top issue

People queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Washington,DC on November 6, 2012. Americans head to the polls after a burst of last-minute campaigning by President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in a nail-biting contest unlikely to heal a deeply polarized nation. After a long, expensive and fiercely negative campaign, voters will decide whether to re-elect Obama despite the plodding economy or hand the reins to Romney, who has vowed a return to prosperity through smaller government. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty

Updated 6:59 p.m. Eastern Time

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 pollof 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. 

Eighteen percent of voters cited health care as their top issue. Voters were split on the 2010 health care law: 49 percent wanted to repeal some or all of it, while 44 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 54 percent of voters said Mr. Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy had little to no impact on their vote, 42 percent 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-eight percent said it is getting better, 32 percent said it is getting worse, and 28 percent said it was staying the same. Eighty-eight percent of Obama voters say the economy is getting better, while 91 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, 27 percent of voters said they are better off today, while 32 percent said they are worse off. Four in 10 say they are about the same. Fifty-four percent said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy, including 74 percent of Obama voters, while 40 percent called it fair to most Americans, including 77 percent of Romney voters.

Voters were split on the most important quality for a candidate. Twenty-eight percent said it was that he have a vision for the future, while 29 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 76 percent of Romney voters. Forty-two percent say the government should do more, including 82 percent of Obama voters.

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

Only nine percent say Mr. Obama favors the rich. Forty-three percent say he favors the middle class, while 30 percent say he favors the poor.

Just 7 percent say they decided which candidate to support today or in the last few days.

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