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How they voted: A closer look at the Reuters/Ipsos exit poll

By Gabriel Debenedetti

(Reuters) - A Fordham University examination of polls conducted during the 2012 election cycle has ranked Reuters/Ipsos as No. 1 in predictive accuracy. In addition to nearly 120,000 respondents surveyed online from January to November 5, 2012, on a range of political and social issues, Reuters/Ipsos conducted an exit poll that garnered some 40,000 responses from early voters and those who cast their ballots on November 6.

Here are some notable findings from that survey:

- Voters who cast their ballot before Election Day were disproportionately older and retired.

- Three percent of voters said they made their choices in the voting booth, while 6 percent said they chose in the week before Election Day. Those who decided in the booth were more likely than most to say jobs were a priority and were less likely to have been contacted by Mitt Romney's campaign. (The Romney campaign's get-out-the-vote operation has come under scrutiny since the election, with some in the media and in the Republican Party calling it inadequate.) They tended to be younger than 55 with lower income and education levels than most.

- Twelve percent of people who "identify strongly" with the Tea Party voted for President Barack Obama. One-fifth of those who said they identify "at least a little" with the Tea Party also voted for the Democrat.

- Although Romney was the first Mormon to run for president on a major party ticket, 14 percent of Mormons - a religion that includes prominent Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New Mexico Senator Tom Udall as members - voted for Obama.

- More than two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Obama, who is thought to have cemented Latino support with his executive action this year on deportation exemptions for many undocumented youths. But among Hispanic voters, immigration ranked behind the economy, unemployment, healthcare and "issues like abortion and same-sex marriage" as a motivating issue.

- Voters who switched from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012 said the most important factor for them was the candidate's ability to bring about needed change.

- Voters who switched from Republican John McCain in 2008 to Obama in 2012 said their choice was based on which candidate "cares about people like me." That suggests the Obama campaign may have been successful in painting Romney, a wealthy businessman, as out of touch with average voters, particularly after his leaked remarks about the "47 percent" he said he would not "worry about."

- Nearly half of voters who switched from a 2008 McCain vote to Obama, or a 2008 Obama vote to Romney, made their decision after October's presidential debates.

- Asian-American voters broke for Obama by roughly a 2-1 margin. About a quarter of them were first-time voters.

(The Reuters/Ipsos database is now public and searchable here: http://www.tinyurl.com/reuterspoll)

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti. Editing by Douglas Royalty)

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