WASHINGTON (AP) — The voters have a plan: Consider raising taxes on the wealthy, but not everybody else. Shrink the government. Work harder on creating jobs and holding the line on prices, because economic worries are more important than cutting the deficit right now.
Americans surveyed as they left polling places across the nation on Election Day expanded on the thinking behind their ballots. They embraced some Republican ideas and some Democratic ones, giving both sides something to work with if they can all just get along.
Their opinions might point the way out of gridlock, if President Barack Obama and a divided Congress take their advice. Will anybody listen?
Some of the electorate's thoughts on taxes, spending and the deficit:
— Most voters aren't that focused on taming the deficit. A strong majority say the economy is the most important issue. The deficit was picked by only 15 percent, coming in behind health care but ahead of foreign policy.
— Taxes don't top the list of people's financial troubles. The biggies are unemployment and rising prices. Only 14 percent of voters ranked taxes as the biggest economic problem for people like them.
— When the two go head to head, taxes trump the deficit. Sixty-three percent rejected the idea of raising taxes to help cut the nation's budget deficits, even though they've been hitting about $1 trillion per year.
— Most, 55 percent, think the U.S. financial system favors the wealthy. Only 39 percent feel it's fair to most Americans. And a majority believe Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romey's policies would make that worse. Fifty-three percent felt his policies favor the rich. Voters were most likely to say Obama's policies favor the middle class (44 percent) or the poor (31 percent).
— Nearly half, 47 percent of voters surveyed, said go ahead and raise taxes on incomes of $250,000 and up, as Obama proposes. Only 35 percent wanted no tax increases for anyone. A lonely 13 percent called for higher taxes all around.
— Voters embraced Romney's message about government that's grown too big. Just over half — 51 percent — said government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. Only 43 percent wanted government to do more to solve problems. That's a reversal from four years ago.
— There wasn't a clear winner between Obama's economic policies and Romney's. Voters were split on which of them would better handle the economy. But Romney got a narrow advantage on handling the federal budget deficit, 49-47.
— A majority, 52 percent, thought Obama would do better on Medicare. The rising cost of Medicare as more baby boomers retire and health care prices go up is a giant problem within the out-of-control deficit dilemma.
— Voters gave a vote of no confidence to the Republican policies of Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush. A slim majority said he's more to blame for the ongoing economic problems; only 38 percent blamed Obama more.
The survey of 26,565 voters was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 350 precincts nationally Tuesday, as well as 4,408 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
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