INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Barack Obama ended Republicans' 40-year grip on Indiana's electoral votes Tuesday with a narrow win over John McCain boosted by first-time voters, blacks, young people and voters worried about the economy, an Associated Press exit poll shows.
In becoming the first black elected president by defeating McCain, Obama also secured a place in history books as the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Tuesday's election played out as Indiana voters, mirroring sentiments nationwide, said the biggest problem facing the country was its troubled economy after weeks of financial turmoil.
Obama won the overwhelming support of Indiana voters who describe themselves as Democrats, but also captured the support of many Republicans, independents and moderates.
The AP exit poll showed that about a quarter of Indiana voters described themselves as independents and that more than half of them favored Obama over McCain. In 2004, about half of all self-described independents voted for Bush.
The Illinois senator also got strong support from young college-age voters and first-time voters - groups Obama's campaign aggressively courted, the AP exit poll shows.
Maurice Walker, a 23-year-old student teacher at a Gary high school, said he was old enough to vote in 2004 but didn't cast his first vote until Tuesday, when he voted for Obama.
"I was a guy who would complain a lot but really wouldn't do anything about it. Voting is our way to say I tried to do something about it," he said Tuesday after voting.
Obama got some help from Republicans in his Indiana win. More than a third of Indiana voters said they consider themselves Republicans, and a strong majority of them voted for McCain. But the percentage of self-described Republican voters supporting McCain was smaller than the number who voted for President Bush in 2004.
For the exit poll, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International polled 2,422 Indiana voters in a sampling for the AP and television networks. The results are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.
The poll's results showed that a strong majority of Indiana voters said they disapprove of President Bush's job performance. The president's approval rating among Indiana voters Tuesday was far lower than it was on Election Day in 2004.
The president's low job-approval likely didn't help McCain. A slight majority of Indiana voters said that if McCain were elected president, he would continue Bush's policies.
McCain, who visited the state on Monday in a last push to keep the state in the GOP column, had a slight edge among Indiana voters like Connie Smith, a 53-year-old Indianapolis resident, for whom experience was important in their presidential choice.
Smith said she supported the Arizona senator because of his long experience in the Senate. But Obama's win, she said, "shows how America has opened its arms in a lot of different ways when it comes to diversity."
A strong majority of Indiana voters said the candidates' race was not a factor in how they voted, although white men and women slightly favored McCain over Obama.
Indiana voters who re-elected Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels on Tuesday, favoring him over Democrat Jill Long Thompson, continued their habit of splitting tickets. About a third of those who voted for Daniels also voted for Obama, the exit poll showed.
The AP poll did not include any Hoosiers who voted by absentee ballot. This year, about 15 percent of Indiana's 4.5 million voters cast absentee ballots, many at early voting sites.
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