George Bush owes his victory to the votes of white, American males. If women and blacks had had their way, Michael Dukakis would be president-elect today.

That picture emerged from exit polls the networks conducted with tens of thousands of voters Tuesday.The Republican vice president stitched together much of the old Reagan coalition, despite some defections that allowed his Democratic rival to make a far more respectable showing than Jimmy Carter in 1980 or Walter Mondale in 1984.

The exit polls showed Bush's strong suits were the economy, a strong defense and experience. He routed Dukakis in the South, but the Democrat ran strongly in the West.

NBC News pollster Sheldon Gawiser said the economy was foremost in voters' minds. "People are pretty pleased with the way things are," he said.

An ABC News exit poll of 22,000 voters found Bush was the choice of men, 54-44 percent, while women preferred Dukakis, 52-47. Blacks went for Dukakis, 89-9, but they were only 8 percent of those polled by ABC.

Bush carried the white vote, 55-44 percent, while Dukakis won the Hispanic vote, 68-31, according to ABC, which said its poll had a margin of error of two percentage points.

Dukakis, the governor of Massachusetts, drew high marks for his vision, concern for the poor and honesty - but fewer people were concerned about those qualities.

Dukakis got 52 percent of the blue-collar vote, once a gimme for the Democrats. Bush got 47 percent.

Voters from union households went for Dukakis, 67-32, while people with no family tie to a union were in Bush's camp, 53-46, ABC said.

Dotty Lynch, chief political editor for CBS, said Dukakis "fell down in the industrial rust belt areas. The yuppier areas he did well in."

The CBS-New York Times poll of more than 10,000 voters, with a two-point margin of error, also showed Bush winning among men, 55-43, and losing among women, 51-48.

"What basically happened was that Dukakis failed to carry men and his margin with women was not enough to offset the problem," said Lynch.

In the ABC poll, one voter in four cited the candidates' experience as a foremost issue, and they went with Bush, 93-6.

Those who felt the presidential candidate "cares about people like me" were Dukakis supporters, 87-12.

Dukakis gained back some of the Roman Catholic votes that deserted the Democrats for Reagan. Catholics chose Dukakis, 54-46, and Jews went with the Democrat, 71-28, according to ABC. But Bush pulled a formidable 59-40 majority of the Protestant vote.

Bush pulled in 16 percent of the Democrats' vote - less than Reagan's 24 percent - and carried the independents, 53-45, while Dukakis got 8 percent of the Republicans, ABC said.