Discuss as:

Voters back Obama despite economic concerns, exit polls show

NBC's Chuck Todd discusses how Florida may be used as a model for the rest of the country to show how changes in demographics, particular an influx of Hispanic voters in key counties, affected the outcome of the election.

Updated at 12:26 a.m. ET: President Barack Obama won re-election despite an electorate that sees a nation on the wrong track, with a weak and troubling economy, according to NBC projections and exit polls. Exit poll interviews with voters point to three big reasons for Obama’s victory:

  • First, despite a slim majority of voters thinking the country is on the wrong track, 54 percent approve of the way Obama is doing his job, and the electorate was almost exactly split on whether Obama or Romney would be better at handling the economy.
  • Among the four voters in 10 who said they think economic conditions in the country are getting better, a huge majority, nearly nine out of ten, said they voted for Obama.
  • Finally, a slight majority of voters voiced an unfavorable view of Romney personally, while a slight majority had a favorable view of Obama. On the attribute of whether the president or his GOP rival was “a candidate who cares about people like me” Obama had a massive lead over Romney.

Voters were sharply divided along lines of sex, ethnicity, age, income and religion, exit polls showed.

NBC's Tamron Hall breaks down the results of the NBC News national exit poll, which shows a gender gap that worked in President Obama's favor as well as a boost from the Latino community, from which he received more votes than four years ago.

The gender gap was distinct: Among male voters, 52 percent favored Romney, while 45 percent backed Obama. The data reflected slipping support for Obama, who won 49 percent of male voters four years ago. (Full exit polling data is available here.

Among white male voters the disparity was even sharper: Obama was winning just 36 percent of the white male vote Tuesday, compared with the 41 percent he won in 2008, the exit polls showed.

Women voters favored Obama 55 percent to 43 percent – about the same split as four years ago when 56 percent of women voters preferred Obama and 43 percent supported Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.

Within the female vote there was a sharp divide between married and unmarried women: Married women backed Romney, 53 percent to 46 percent, while unmarried women preferred Obama by a better than 2-to-1 ratio, 68 percent to 30 percent. 

Virginia Senator-elect Tim Kaine weighs in on what made the difference for him and the president in his state, how Obama plans to work with the GOP and why it may be a more cooperative relationship in this second term.

Among white voters -– who accounted for nearly three quarters of the electorate -- Romney was leading Obama by 58 to 40 percent, making Romney’s performance among white voters three points better than McCain’s in 2008.

Younger voters preferred Obama, but not by as lopsided a margin as in 2008: Among voters age 18 to 29 Tuesday, three out of five said they voted for Obama, compared with about two of three in 2008.

On the other hand, Romney had a substantial advantage among voters 65 and older, who favored the Republican by a margin of 11 points.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Supporters of President Barack Obama cheer as they wait for Obama to appear on stage during the Obama Election Night watch party at McCormick Place Tuesday, Nov. 6, in Chicago, Ill.

Latinos and blacks overwhelmingly voted for Obama, according to the exit polls. Latinos, an important part of Obama’s winning coalition in 2008, were even stronger in their support of Obama than they were four years ago. Latinos, who accounted for about a tenth of the national electorate, favored Obama by about 70-30. Black voters continued to be exceptionally loyal to Obama – he was getting more than nine in 10 of their votes Tuesday night, just as he did four years ago.

Obama showed strength among lower-income voters, winning three out of five voters with family incomes below $50,000. Among middle-income voters Romney led 52 percent to 46 percent, and he did a bit better than that among voters with family incomes of $100,000 over more.

Another dividing line in the electorate, as in 2008, was religion. Three out of five voters who told exit poll interviewers they attended religious services weekly or more often preferred Romney, while 40 percent backed Obama. This represented about a five point improvement among such voters for Romney over McCain’s performance four years ago.

Among those who said they never attend religious services (a much smaller portion of the electorate) Obama won more than three of five.

A slim majority of voters Tuesday told exit poll interviewers that they felt the country was “off on the wrong track,” but the mood of the electorate was markedly more optimistic than it was four years ago when a record three out of four voters said the country was on the wrong track.

An overwhelming 76 percent of voters said the state of the economy is poor, or “not so good,” but voters did not tend to blame Obama, who came into office in the midst of a financial crisis and deep recession. Only 38 percent said Obama was “more to blame for the current economic conditions,” compared with 53 percent who laid the blame more on former President George W. Bush.

More election coverage from NBCNews.com:

Follow NBC Politics on Twitter and Facebook