By The Associated Press
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill won a second term, defeating embattled GOP challenger Todd Akin. Here's a look at voters' views of Tuesday's elections, according to a preliminary exit poll conducted in Missouri for The Associated Press:
'LEGTIMATE RAPE' COMMENT ON VOTERS' MINDS
There's no doubt about it: Akin's remark that women's bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy after "legitimate rape" weighed on Missourians, and a case could easily be made that it sunk the Republican's chances. A solid majority of voters said that, at the very least, they gave the comment some consideration in the voting booth - and those who did overwhelmingly sided with McCaskill. Women were slightly more likely to say that Akin's remark on rape and abortion in an August television interview was important to their decision, but Akin couldn't get the majority of men to look past that race-turning moment, either.
WOMEN BACK McCASKILL WITH STRONG TURNOUT
Women didn't carry McCaskill to victory on their own, but they did the heavy lifting. McCaskill outperformed by a wide margin among women, who supported her in slightly higher numbers than in 2006. The Democrat's comfortable edge among women was propelled by those 18-44 who overwhelmingly lined up behind the first-term incumbent, as did a significant number of middle-aged women who made up the bulk of female voters. Akin offset some of these losses by holding his ground among women 65 and older and white women overall. Black women, however, backed McCaskill in a landslide.
AKIN FARES BETTER AMONG MEN
Aside from being more likely to look past Akin's comment, men backed Akin in stronger numbers than women, especially those who are older. Still, the best Akin could muster was a split with McCaskill for the entire male vote.
YOUNG VOTERS FLOCK TO McCASKILL
The biggest inroads McCaskill made since her first run six years ago? Young voters. She benefited from a big swing of voters 29 and under who turned out for her this time after fighting for an even share of that voting bloc in 2006.
VOTERS SPLIT ON ABORTION
The "legitimate rape" comment put a spotlight on abortion in Missouri, and voters were almost evenly split between pro-choice and anti-abortion views. Akin fared as strongly among abortion opponents as McCaskill did among those who felt that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Those most unequivocal on the issue - that it should be legal in all instances, or prohibited no matter the circumstance - made up the smallest numbers.
STANDING BY THEIR CANDIDATE
If McCaskill and the Democrats had counted on an anti-Akin vote because of his comments to win this election, that's not what did it for them. Only a small slice of voters say their pick for the Senate seat was driven by a dislike for the other candidate. And even then, that group was practically split in their disapproval of McCaskill and Akin.
ECONOMY BIGGEST ISSUE FACING COUNTRY
Beyond Missouri politics, the economy was weighing most on the minds of voters by far. Health care and the deficit was a distant second when it came to the most pressing issues facing the country. Unemployment in Missouri is just under 7% and below the national average. Few gave the economy good or even adequate marks: most said it was sputtering, if not altogether in poor shape.
The preliminary exit poll of 2,050 Missouri voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research in a random sample of 35 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4%age points; it is higher for subgroups.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.