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Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative led in an initial exit poll Tuesday evening, giving comfort to advocates who grew concerned when recent surveys showed flagging support in the final month of the campaign.

Proposition 30 led 53 percent to 47 percent in a California exit poll conducted for The Bee by Edison Research. The numbers are subject to change as the evening wears on.

The initiative would raise income taxes on top earners and the statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent on the dollar to generate roughly $6 billion annually for the state budget, which pays for education, social services and public safety. The tiered income tax hike kicks in retroactively for the 2012 tax year at $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for joint filers.

The measure led among voters younger than 45, and the gap was widest among the 18-24-year-old set that Brown lobbied hard in the final three weeks by touring college campuses up and down the state. The governor told college students that approving Proposition 30 would avert a tuition hike - at least for the current school year - and almost 7 in 10 voters aged 18-24 backed the initiative.

Voters 45 and older opposed the initiative by a 47 percent to 53 percent difference, the poll found.

The initiative had a wide 10-point lead among women, with 55 percent supporting Proposition 30, compared to 45 percent against. The gap among men was tighter at 51 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed.

Democrats overwhelmingly backed the initiative at 76 percent to 24 percent. But the proposal trailed among independents at 45 percent to 55 percent, and was panned by 76 percent of Republicans.

Voters whose households earned less than $100,000 last year supported the initiative by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin. The gap was widest among the lowest-income earners below $30,000, who backed the measure 65 percent to 35 percent.

The measure barely trailed among voters earning more than $100,000 at 49 percent to 51 percent. The exit poll did not survey enough voters above $250,000 to break out that demographic.

There was little difference between union and non-union households, with 56 percent of union households favoring Prop. 30 compared to 54 percent of those without a union member.

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