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Politics

Exit poll: Georgia Voters Solidly Back Their Super Tuesday Picks

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US Presidential hopeful poses with the symbol of the Republican Party, an elephant, after a rally March 2, 2012 in Savannah, Georgia. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

US Presidential hopeful poses with the symbol of the Republican Party, an elephant, after a rally March 2, 2012 in Savannah, Georgia. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Most voters in Georgia’s presidential primary chose a Republican candidate they strongly support, though a significant number made up their minds in the final days before Super Tuesday.

A preliminary exit poll conducted in the state showed about three in 10 voters made their picks for the GOP nomination only within the last few days. It was the highest share of late deciders since South Carolina held its Republican primary in late January.

Georgia, the biggest Super Tuesday prize with 76 delegates up for grabs, saw plenty of attention from the candidates in the past week. Newt Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years, spent most of last week touring his former home state and returned for last-minute campaigning Tuesday. Rick Santorum was in north Georgia last week and Mitt Romney made an appearance over the weekend.

More than half of Georgia voters said they strongly favored the candidate who ended up receiving their support. That made it one of the few states voting Tuesday where a majority expressed strong backing for their choice. Very few Georgia voters — less than one in ten — said they made their choice because they disliked the other options.

As in other states’ primaries, Georgia primary voters were worried most about the economy, with about half naming it their top issue. A similar margin said they chose the candidate they felt was most capable of defeating President Barack Obama in the fall, which voters said by a margin of more than 2-to-1 was more important than picking the most conservative or most experienced candidate.

Rising prices at the gas pumps also weighed heavily on the minds of Georgians, with about eight in ten saying the cost of gasoline was an important factor in how they voted Tuesday.

Voters who consider themselves conservative on both social and economic issues dominated in Georgia. About seven in ten identified themselves as somewhat to very conservative, and by the same margin said they support the tea party.

Voters who say they’re born-again or evangelical Christians made up roughly two-thirds of the turnout in Georgia. Nearly seven in ten of those voters said it’s somewhat or very important that a candidate shared their religious beliefs.

The survey of voters in Georgia’s GOP presidential primary was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results among 1,190 voters interviewed Tuesday as they left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites in Georgia.

The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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