Clemson University Palmetto Poll
Democratic Primary

The latest Clemson University Palmetto Poll of likely voters in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, to be held on Saturday, February 27, 2016, finds Hillary Clinton far ahead of her rival Bernie Sanders. The state of South Carolina has not voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1976, but this year’s primary victory by Clinton will likely prove important in the nomination of the Democratic candidate.

Clinton has been in a competitive race so far, and the Palmetto Poll finds that she will do better here than in any previous state. Unlike the earlier Democratic races, in states like —the Iowa caucus (a razor thin Clinton victory), New Hampshire primary (a huge victory for Sanders), Nevada caucus (a close Clinton win)— Clinton seems to be in the establishment camp with a sizable lead here.

The Palmetto Poll surveyed voters statewide. The sample was of 650 voters who said they were voting in the upcoming primary. To be included in the poll a person had to have voted in two of the past three statewide primary elections. Our cell phone percentage was just under 20 percent for this survey. Calling began on February 20 and concluded on February 25. The error estimate is plus or minus 3 points for a survey of this size. All respondents were asked if they were going to vote in the upcoming Democratic primary, and were only included if they said they were voting.

Given Bernie Sanders’s landslide victory in the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton has not had a signature win as of yet. We believe that she will have her first in South Carolina.

Q1: In the primary election for president of the United States, for whom will
you vote given the list of candidates?

  1. Hillary Clinton 64%
  2. Bernie Sanders 14%
  3. Undecided 22%

For the first time in its history, the Palmetto Poll finds that the person in the lead when we first surveyed in October of 2015, remains in the lead when the primary comes around in February 2016. Yet roughly a fifth of likely primary are still undecided. Despite the appeal Sanders has found in other areas of the country, especially New Hampshire, he finds no strong allegiance in South Carolina.

The next question asked respondents what values appealed to them as they made their selections as who would receive their support. Unlike the Republican poll where respondents chose from a host of reasons for their selection, Democratic respondents remained remarkable quiet about their reasons for their allegiance. Two-thirds of those we polled refused to answer the question about why they picked the person they did. As a result, the figures for the Democrats are quite small.

Q2: What do you like most about your first choice for president?

  1. Shares my values 9%
  2. Cares about people like me 8%
  3. Strong leader for the country                         8%
  4. Other 64%

These are the three most popular answers ranked in order, and they tell very little about why Clinton did so well among the voters.

Finally, the poll asked voters about their decision timing, and how difficult it was to make up their minds about the candidates running for office this year.

Q3. When did you, or when will you, make up your mind about for whom you will vote for president in the election?

  1. Before the primaries began 12%
  2. After the previous primary outcomes 3%
  3. This past week 3%
  4. Today 1%
  5. Other 68%

Most respondents refused to discuss the time frame for their decision or how they decided. Instead, they avoided discussing the reasons for their decisions and when they made them.