By ALAN FRAM and JENNIFER AGIESTA
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 4 in 10 voters in Michigan's Republican presidential primary said Tuesday they supported the federal bailout of the auto industry, according to early results of an exit poll of voters there. Both major candidates in the race opposed the aid.
In Arizona, preliminary results of an exit poll showed that voters in that state's GOP presidential primary were roughly evenly split over what to do about illegal immigration, a major issue in the border state.
The Michigan survey provided a sketch of voters in a state that was among the hardest hit by the recession. Three in 10 said someone in their household had lost a job in the past three years, and nearly 1 in 4 said somebody in their home was a union member.
The top contenders for the GOP nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, each said they oppose the 2008 and 2009 influx of federal aid that kept General Motors and Chrysler afloat as both were foundering. The bailout became a top issue in the final days of the Michigan campaign, at a time when the auto industry — the backbone of the state's economy — has revived.
Around 6 in 10 Michigan voters were Republicans, reflecting state rules that allow others to vote in the GOP contest.
In both Michigan and Arizona, around half said they strongly favored the candidate they backed. That was below the 63 percent who expressed that enthusiasm in Iowa, the only other state where GOP presidential voters have been asked that question in exit or entrance polls this year.
The economy was on the top of minds of most voters in Michigan's Republican primary, while Arizona's voters were slightly less apt to call it their top priority.
Amid a campaign that have seen the top GOP contenders spend millions on television ads criticizing each other, only around 1 in 3 Michigan voters said this year's battle for the nomination seemed more negative than past contests in their state. Somewhat fewer said the same in Arizona.
Given four choices about what they most wanted in a presidential candidate, the largest share in both states said it was most important that a candidate be able to defeat President Barack Obama in November. Fewer in each state said they were seeking a candidate with the right experience.
In Michigan, 6 in 10 voters were calling themselves conservative. That made Tuesday's voters there one of the more moderate electorates out of the first seven states to hold GOP presidential primaries or caucuses where voters entering or leaving polling places have been surveyed.
In Arizona, the proportion of conservative voters was appreciably heavier.
The surveys of voters in Michigan and Arizona's GOP presidential primaries were conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results among 1,631 voters interviewed Tuesday as they left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites in Michigan, and among 1,617 Arizona voters as they left 30 polling places. Included were 412 who voted early or absentee in Michigan and 601 in Arizona, who were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Feb. 20-26.
Each survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)