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Alabama vote shows racial divide

Alabama voters were deeply divided along racial lines in Tuesday’s presidential election, according to an Associated Press exit poll.

Black voters almost universally supported Democrat Barack Obama, while more than eight in 10 whites backed Republican John McCain.

By comparison, Obama won about 45 percent of the white vote nationally and more than 95 percent of black voters.

The vast majority of Alabama’s electorate — nearly nine in 10 voters — said they were worried about the direction of the economy, and roughly half cited it as the most important issue facing the country.

But Obama wasn’t able to capitalize on the issue. Among those who expressed economic concerns, McCain had a clear advantage and the Republican nominee was projected to win the state. McCain also held a strong lead among those earning $100,000 or more, while neither candidate had an edge among those making $50,000 or less.

The survey found that President Bush’s popularity in the state has dropped sharply, with some six in 10 voters saying they disapprove of the job he’s done. That’s about the same amount who said they approved of his performance four years ago.

Still, McCain saw very few Republican defections, with some 95 percent of Republicans voting for him.

McCain had an advantage in Alabama among groups that were key to Obama’s victories in other states. McCain handily won self-described independents, taking more than six in 10, and won a majority of women. He held his own among people 29 or younger and in urban areas with populations of 50,000 or more.

The poll found very few late deciders in Alabama. About 90 percent of the state’s voters made their decision last month or before.

The exit poll of 1,000 Alabama voters was conducted for AP by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International in a random sample of 20 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, higher for subgroups.