What do voters think? A peek beyond the ballot
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Want to know what American voters really think? Most say the wealthy get unfair breaks. They're tepid toward the tea party, divided about gay marriage. And they're in no rush to deport illegal workers.
Surveyed at their polling places, the voters spoke out on all sorts of political hot potatoes in exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and TV networks.
Sure, they were asked lots about President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and the economy.
But the 2012 electorate spoke on other issues you may have missed. Some highlights:
THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT
The 99 percenters who camped out on Wall Street aren't alone in worrying about income inequality. A full 55 percent of voters say the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy. Only 39 percent think the system is fair to most Americans.
So perhaps it's unsurprising that nearly half want to increase taxes on people with family incomes over $250,000 per year, as Obama proposes.
Voters are more against the tea party than for it. But few are worked up about the low-tax, small-government movement that helped Republicans take control of the House in 2010 and hang onto it Tuesday. The biggest share - 42 percent - feel neutral about it.
Thirty percent oppose the movement; 21 percent are supporters.
American voters are still divided, but the momentum is toward more same-sex marriages.
Forty-nine percent of voters said their own state should legally recognize gay marriages; 46 percent said no.
The exit poll comes as Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve gay marriage by popular vote; mail-in ballots on the issue were still being counted in Washington state but it seemed poised to do so, too. Minnesota voters defeated an anti-gay marriage measure.
Since the 1990s, 32 states had voted to ban same-sex weddings. Tuesday's results could be a tipping point in the other direction.
Voters are open to the idea of letting some illegal workers stay.
Sixty-five percent said most illegal immigrants working in the United States should be offered a chance to apply for legal status. That's more than double the number who said most should be deported.
Even among Republicans, the party associated with crackdowns on illegal immigration, about half favored a path toward staying in the U.S.
It still causes a rift.
More than two years after Obama's health care law was passed, a fourth of voters want the whole thing thrown out. Yet just as many think Obamacare should be not only kept on the books, but expanded.
As a whole, it inspires more negative than positive feelings. About half - 49 percent - think at least some parts of the law should be repealed, compared with 44 percent who want to keep it.
It's one of the nation's most emotionally charged issues. Yet the voters are clear: a solid majority wants to keep abortion legal.
Fifty-nine percent say abortion should be legal either in all or most cases. In contrast, 36 percent say it should be illegal all or most of the time.
At the extremes, twice as many voters want always-legal abortion as want it completely banned.
NOT MY TAXES
Don't let them go up, voters say - unless it's on someone else.
Overall, 63 percent said taxes shouldn't be raised to help reduce federal budget deficits that are running about $1 trillion per year.
But when asked about taxing the wealthy, Americans were more willing. Almost half - 47 percent - said yes to that.
Only 13 percent think everyone's taxes should go up.
Withstanding a barrage of negative TV ads and hyper-partisan attacks, voters kept things positive. Nearly two-thirds strongly favored the man they chose. Only 1 in 10 mostly voted against the other guy.
Romney voters were a little more likely to harbor reservations about their man: 28 percent of them said so, compared with 20 percent of Obama's voters.
The survey of 26,565 voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 350 precincts nationally Tuesday, as well as 4,408 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.