LYNN NEARY, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Lynn Neary. Exit polls are just beginning to come out, and we're going to look at them with Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. He's here in the studio with me. Welcome, Andy.
ANDREW KOHUT: Happy to be here, Lynn.
NEARY: I know this is very early on in the game, but is there any trend that you can see now in these preliminary numbers?
KOHUT: Well, it's interesting to look at the composition of the electorate. It's very similar to what we saw four years ago with 73 percent white and 13 percent black. The black representation is not lower than it was four years ago. There was a lot of question whether that would be the case. And we see the same thing with respect to the age distribution. Eighteen percent of these exit polls respondents were under 30 years of age, just about what we had four years ago that the partisan balance is pretty much the same with a slight - a somewhat smaller Democratic plurality, but there are more Democrats than Republicans, at least in this early exit poll.
NEARY: So can you read anything from that at all?
KOHUT: It's a little too early...
KOHUT: ...to make some projections based upon that.
NEARY: Well, what kinds of issues are people saying are important to them?
KOHUT: Well, it's clearly - the economy is the top issue. Sixty percent said...
NEARY: No surprise there.
KOHUT: Yeah. There's no surprise there. Foreign policy was just 4 percent, Benghazi notwithstanding. The conventional wisdom about this campaign appears to be true. The public's personal current concerns are somewhat surprising to me. Forty percent said jobs, but almost as many - 37 percent - said rising prices. So it's - on a personal level, it's not all jobs. It's prices. That may be gasoline, you know?
NEARY: And in the states that you'll be watching closely tonight, I think we know some of them.
KOHUT: Well, the big important swing states...
KOHUT: ...Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin, we're going to be getting exit polls in from all of those states, so we'll have some sense of where these crucial electorates are going over the course of the night. Much of it will be very early because these states largely close early.
NEARY: So what do you think, or is it going to be a long night, or is it going to be an early night?
KOHUT: Well, until we see some more convincing - or not more authoritative exit polls, we have - we don't really have any idea. What's interesting about this exit poll is it shows that we do have a more conservative electorate. This is - compared to four years ago, many fewer people say that they want a government that solves problems. But on the other hand, it's a populist electorate. Fifty-three percent say the economic system favors rich people. So there are pretty nuanced attitudes even at the very top, just looking at the exit poll in the briefest of ways.
NEARY: Anything in particular you're going to be looking at as sort of key to what might - what the outcome might be?
KOHUT: Well, the key to it will be whether how close this is or isn't and what the moderates do and what the independents do. I guess, the key is how are these independents going to break. We know how the Republicans and Democrats are going to vote. They're going to vote 90 percent for their candidate.
NEARY: So here at the end where we were at the beginning, the key is the independents.
KOHUT: They're always the deciders.
NEARY: OK. Andy, we'll be hearing more from you tonight on NPR's special coverage of the election. It will be broadcast on many NPR stations beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for being with us, Andy.
KOHUT: You're welcome, Lynn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.