Obama rides economy to White House

3 out of 5 voters say it's their top concern, as the country faces the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

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By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

President-elect Barack Obama addresses supporters in Chicago upon his election.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- In the face of what's arguably the darkest economic outlook since the Great Depression, voters say the economy was overwhelmingly the most important issue in this historic election, and was clearly an advantage to President-elect Barack Obama.

About 62% of voters named the economy as the No. 1 issue, according to exit polls.

The Iraq war, at 10%, ranked a distant second among top concerns. Terrorism and health care rounded out the top four, garnering 9% each.

By comparison, in 2006 voters ranked Iraq as their top concern, and in 2004 it was terrorism.

The economy played a central role in key battleground states, and helped hand the victory to Obama.

In Florida, 62% of voters polled said the economy was the top issue. Of those, 56% voted for Obama, and 42% voted for Republican nominee John McCain.

In Ohio, 61% of those polled said the economy was issue number one, with 54% voting for Obama and 44% choosing McCain.

With a potentially severe recession looming at home, the country fighting a two-front war overseas, and a deeply unpopular sitting president, the 2008 election is projected to shatter voter turnout records.

The election would have been historic no matter who won.

The Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, would have been the first female to hold that office.

But ultimately it's Obama who CNN projects has won this election to become the first African-American in the Oval Office.

Bounce from economy

The faltering economy is thought to have given a boost to the Democratic contender Obama.

Just a few weeks ago the race was nearly even. But as the economic outlook worsened, the polls began shifting in Obama's favor.

Only 7% of those polled Tuesday said the economy was in good shape, while 93% said it was not good.

On the bright side, 47% said the economy should get better in the next year. About 23% said it would get worse, and 26% said it will stay the same.

Many voters said they expect a post-election tax increase, with 49% predicting their taxes will rise no matter who is elected president.

Another 22% said taxes will go up only if Obama wins, and 12% said taxes will go up only if McCain wins.

Only 15% said their taxes will stay the same or go down.

The economy moved center stage in the last leg of the campaign as the two candidates tried to convince voters that they are the best choice to handle the financial crisis.

Over the last two months, the economy dominated headlines as mortgage defaults originating in the United States felled once-mighty banks worldwide and led to a freeze in credit, prompting massive government intervention. Many analysts say this financial crisis is the worst since the Great Depression.

For a worldwide economy already on the rocks, the credit freeze-up could mean a global recession as banks hold on to money and businesses stop hiring workers.

In the United States, a recession is almost all but guaranteed, with many observers saying it could be a particularly rough one that lasts more than a year.

Americans have been hit hard already. Home prices have fallen nearly 20% over the last year and the economy has shed more than 760,000 jobs. High food and, until recently, energy prices have also pinched extra spending money.

-- CNNWires reports were used in compiling this article.

Did you vote for Obama? How do you think the new president will affect your wallet? What do you think Obama needs to do to fix the economy - both in the short run and the long term? What should be first on the new Congress's agenda? E-mail us your thoughts, including your name, photo and contact info; the best answers will be featured in an upcoming CNNMoney.com article.  To top of page

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