South Carolina Exit Polls

Joe Biden won with every group imaginable---and some that were unimaginable.

WaPo has a look at the “Exit polls from the 2020 South Carolina Democratic primary.” They illustrate the magnitude of Joe Biden’s win—and the oddness of the state’s Democratic nominating electorate.

Biden won essentially across the board:

  • Biden won a plurality of white voters and an overwhelming majority of black voters—beating Sanders 4 to 1 with the latter.
  • Biden won every age group but the under-29s—which Sanders carried handily. (Alas, there are few of those; just 11% of the turnout.)
  • Biden dominated among those who regularly or occasionally attend religious worship services—Sanders handily won among those who never attend.
  • Biden won among men and women by wide margins.
  • Biden dominated among college-educated and no-college voters alike.
  • Biden dominated among Democrats and won with Independents.
  • Interestingly, Biden won easily across ideology—winning those who labeled themselves very liberal, somewhat liberal, and moderate or conservative.
  • Biden won easily among veterans and those who had never served.
  • Biden won easily with groups regardless of the issue they claimed most motivated their vote—including health care and income equality! (That’s surprising.)
  • Biden easily won among those who cared most about a candidate’s view on the issues or beating Donald Trump.
  • Biden was the clear favorite of both those who decided a long time ago and made up their minds in the days before the election.
  • Quite bizarrely, Biden easily won among those who favored replacing private insurance with a government-run plan! And, less surprisingly, with those who opposed doing that.
  • Most bizarrely of all, Biden tied Sanders among voters with a favorable opinion of Sanders! (He did, however, lose to Sanders among those who had an unfavorable opinion of Biden.)

The demographics somewhat surprised me as well, although maybe they shouldn’t have.

  • Almost everyone who showed up was over 45; only 18% were between 30 and 44 and a mere 11% were under 30.
  • A whopping 56 percent of the respondents were black.

South Carolina served as Biden’s firewall, as many had predicted, because of its huge African-American participation. That group, as we all know, votes overwhelming Democratic and is arguably the party’s most important demographic group. But South Carolina overall is only 27 percent African-American and the state hasn’t voted for a Democrat as President since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    So much for Bernie’s claim that he’ll bring out new voters. He’s 0-4 thus far.

    As expected SC adds more evidence of the stupidity of Iowa and NH going first. With Iowa’s self destruction, the DNC should be able to push them aside and substitute another, more representative state in the early 4. Maryland perhaps or Arizona?

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But South Carolina overall is only 27 percent African-American and the state hasn’t voted for a Democrat as President since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

    Which just means that the primary is their only chance at influencing the race with their votes. It doesn’t mean their votes aren’t important.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh, absolutely. There’s just a mild irony in the reason South Carolina is so important in choosing the Democratic nominee is the reason it’s irrelevant in the general.

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  4. CSK says:

    James Clyburn’s hearty endorsement of Biden a few days ago probably gave Biden’s campaign a really serious boost, including with some people who’d been undecided till the last moments.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    I bet the Bernie Bros now stop insisting that whoever has a plurality of the delegates be declared the winner.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    There’s just a mild irony in the reason South Carolina is so important in choosing the Democratic nominee is the reason it’s irrelevant in the general.

    This bothered me a little. I don’t think black votes are ever irrelevant to DEMs, whether in the primary or the general. I don’t think you think that either.

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  7. mattbernius says:

    That group, as we all know, votes overwhelming Democratic and is arguably the party’s most important demographic group. But South Carolina overall is only 27 percent African-American and the state hasn’t voted for a Democrat as President since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

    Agreed that SC is a long shot, but the point here isn’t winning SC. It’s seeing which nominee can assemble the necessary coalitions to win in swing states. I don’t think it can be emphasized enough that without black and other minority voters, Democrats *do* *not* *win* in most places (they are who pushed Doug Jones and others over the line in the past).

    Democrats have not won a majority of white voters in years.

    In a more optimized primary system, swing states should probably always move to the front. But given what we currently have, I still feel that while the Dems probably won’t take SC in the general, it’s far more representative of the nation than either Iowa or New Hampshire.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    @CSK:

    James Clyburn’s hearty endorsement of Biden a few days ago probably gave Biden’s campaign a really serious boost, including with some people who’d been undecided till the last moments.

    Agreed. While she’s not my first choice, there’s a lot of chatter about Harris being at the top of Biden’s VP list. Is they were smart, they would make some type of announcement about that in the next 24 hours — simply her endorsement would be huge.

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  9. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    A Biden/Harris ticket would indeed be intriguing, but I’m not sure how many additional African-American votes Harris would bring to the ticket, since AAs never seemed to warm in great numbers to Harris.

    And…is there a possibility that anouncing a vp candidate at this point might be seen as presumptuous?

  10. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    This bothered me a little. I don’t think black votes are ever irrelevant to DEMs, whether in the primary or the general. I don’t think you think that either.

    No, turning out the black vote is the only way the Dems have a shot in November. And South Carolina is a big step in vetting for the ability to do that. It’s just interesting to me that South Carolina is so politically sorted on racial lines that, despite being among the reddest of red states, their Democratic primary is 56 percent black.

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  11. @mattbernius: Endorsement would be huge.

    Naming a running mate would be premature.

    What if when the dust settles Biden has to make a convention-linked deal with another candidate who has delegates in their pocket? (I do not like to stoke the brokered convention fires too much, but this year such things have a larger than usual chance of happening, so precluding those kinds of deals at this stage would be foolish).

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  12. mattbernius says:

    @CSK & @Steven L. Taylor:
    Good points about it being premature.

    On the point of Harris’s appeal, I think a lot potentially changes when she is on a ticket versus running for a ticket.

  13. Michael Cain says:

    Is there any evidence that the VP candidate delivered additional EC votes since Johnson in 1960?

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  14. Michael Cain says:

    @mattbernius:

    It’s seeing which nominee can assemble the necessary coalitions to win in swing states.

    Mildly interesting that only one of the states I think are important swing states — AZ, MN, WI, MI, PA, and FL — is voting on Tuesday. In the recent polls, it’s Klobuchar vs Bernie in MN, with Biden finishing out of the money.

    I suspect we’re going to see a pronounced regional split on Tuesday: Sanders beating Biden everywhere but the South.

    (Full disclosure: I cast my Colorado ballot for Warren last week.)

  15. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @CSK: Not as the lead act no….could she excel as a Biden-style VP who is the the external manifestation of the Presidents’s inside voice. Absolutely.

    As great esteem as I have for Obama, he stiffed his true base, black women, by not nominating one for the Supreme court. In the debate, Biden highlighted that he would give the most loyal voting block of the Democratic Party its due. If he were to precede this by nominating Harris, well gotdamn….2 scoops of Black Girl Magic. Make no mistake Harris would get a few more people off the couch to vote.

    I could see a few Biden pictures on the walls next to the Obama family portraits should he win the nomination, election, and follow thru.

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  16. CSK says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Okay; this raises an interesting issue: What if Obama had nominated Harris to fill one of the spots that Sotomayor or Kagan eventually took?

  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    He should have. SCOTUS would be a good place for her. She could remind Clarence Thomas that the only reason Bush nominated him was Affirmative Action. Lol

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    Quite bizarrely, Biden easily won among those who favored replacing private insurance with a government-run plan!

    As we saw with Hillary Clinton, visceral aversion often defeats policy alignment. Huge numbers of people who voted for Donald Trump (and would do so again) preferred the Democratic platform when asked policy questions that were not labeled by party or phrased in code-words.

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