Politics

Here's what mattered most to voters in the 2020 election, according to exit polls

Key Points
  • The economy, the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice have emerged as top issues for voters in the 2020 presidential election, according to NBC News exit polls.
  • When asked about the tradeoff between containing the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy, 52% of voters believed controlling the pandemic, even if it hurts the economy, was more important.
  • Voters for President Donald Trump were more likely to point to the economy and crime and safety as important issues, while voters for Democratic challenger Joe Biden were more likely to identify the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice.
Residents vote at the Beloit Historical Society on November 03, 2020 in Beloit, Wisconsin.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

The economy, the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice have emerged as top issues for voters in the 2020 presidential election, according to NBC News exit polls.

According to early results from the NBC News survey of early and Election Day voters, about a third of respondents identified the economy as the most decisive issue in how they voted for president. Racial inequality was the top issue for 21% of surveyed voters, and 18% said the Covid-19 crisis mattered most in their decision.

When asked about the tradeoff between containing the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy, 52% of voters said controlling the pandemic, even if it hurts the economy, was more important.

Responses aligned closely with voters' choices in the presidential election. Voters for President Donald Trump were more likely to point to the economy and crime and safety as important issues, while voters for Democratic challenger Joe Biden were more likely to identify the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice.

VIDEO13:4613:46
How to determine if polling data is trustworthy

In their final messages to voters, Trump strayed from the economic populism that fueled his 2016 victory, while Biden centered on the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has repeatedly criticized the president for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis, which has claimed more than 230,000 American lives this year and is surging across the country.

While Trump and Biden have often framed the election as a choice regarding character, 72% of voters said a candidate's issue positions were more important than their personal qualities, NBC News exit polls found.

As polls begin to close across the country and states begin to tally ballots, results released tonight and in the coming days will show how these issues translated into votes for president.

VIDEO13:3113:31
Watch: Why the US votes on Tuesdays

Subscribe to CNBC PRO for access to the livestream of CNBC's continuous election and business news coverage.