(CNN) - Race played less of a role in the presidential election than age, exit polls showed Tuesday.
While Barack Obama will be the nation's first black president, John McCain would have been the oldest person ever elected to the nation's highest office.
Twice as many of those polled on Tuesday said age was an important factor in their vote as those who said race was.
Among those factoring age into their vote, 78 percent went for Obama compared to 21 percent for McCain, exit polls showed.
Those who said race was an important factor voted 55 percent to 44 percent in favor of Obama. But Obama also was the winner by a similar margin among those who said race was not important, "which suggests that race was not a decisive factor in this election," CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said.
The economy was the top issue in the election among 62 percent of voters questioned in exit polls on Tuesday.
It was far ahead of the second-place issue, the Iraq war, which was named as the top concern of 10 percent of voters polled.
Those who picked the Iraq war as their top issue voted for Obama in all but two states, according to the early exit polling results.
Health care and terrorism were tied in third place at 9 percent as the issue voters were most concerned about, according to the exit polling. Those who picked terrorism as their top concern overwhelmingly chose McCain.
In early exit polling, first-time voters were breaking overwhelmingly for Obama over McCain by a 72 percent to 27 percent margin.
First-time voters made up 10 percent of the total national electorate in the early polling results.
Many of those polled said they expect a post-election tax increase, with 49 percent predicting their taxes will rise no matter who is elected president. Another 22 percent said taxes will go up only if Obama wins, and 12 percent said taxes will go up only if McCain wins. Only 15 percent said their taxes will stay the same or go down.
A bare majority of those surveyed - 51 percent - think the government should do more to solve problems. Forty-three percent believe the government is doing too much. At the same time, early exit polling shows only a minority of voters - 40 percent - support the $700 billion government plan to assist failing financial companies. Fifty-six percent are opposed.
GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin didn't do well in exit polls. Sixty percent of those polled said the Alaska governor is not qualified to be president, if necessary; 38 percent said she is. That compares with the two-thirds of those polled who said Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden is qualified to be president and the 31 percent who said he isn't.
Many voters told the pollsters that they made up their minds early in the campaign season, with 61 percent saying they made up their minds before September, another 13 percent saying they decided in September and 17 percent saying they made their selection last month.
Seven percent of those polled decided whom to support within the last three days.
Exit polling also showed that Democrats who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primaries overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the general election, 84 percent to 15 percent for McCain.
For the poll, more than 16,000 people who had just voted were selected at random to fill out questionnaires.
- CNN's Joe Von Kanel and Hal Quinley contributed to this report.