Barack Obama has retained his strong hold on young voters but has been unable to persuade a majority of white men to vote Democrat, according to early exit polls on presidential voting.
Polls show that in Indiana, Ohio and Virginia, Senator Obama won the votes of about two-thirds of first-time voters, rising as high as 73 per cent of novice voters in Indiana.
But the polls, conducted by Fox News, showed John McCain with between 51 and 58 per cent support from white male voters.
Over the past 40 years, white voters have averaged about 40 per cent support for the Democrats, with white men particularly uneasy about supporting the party of civil rights.
CNN exit polls showed an overwhelming 72 per cent of new voters supporting Senator Obama, who has made registration of the young a strong point of his push for the presidency.
Emphasising the difficulties facing Senator McCain was the fact that 62 per cent of voters nominated the economy as the main issue of the campaign, compared with only 10 per cent who cited the war in Iraq, and 9 per cent who said the threat or terrorism was their main issue.
Senator McCain has often admitted economics is not his strong suit, and his early pitch was as a man who could handle national defence.
Voters who decided late how they would vote opted strongly for Senator Obama in Indiana and Ohio, but 55 per cent of Virginia late deciders voted for Senator McCain.