Winthrop Poll: Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly favored among SC Dems

Published: Nov. 4, 2015 at 4:07 PM EST|Updated: May. 12, 2016 at 1:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Hillary Clinton may not have to worry about the South Carolina primary like she did in 2008, according to the latest Winthrop Poll. The poll, released Wednesday, has the former Secretary of State and New York senator leading the Democratic ticket by 71 percent in the Palmetto State.

The other two candidates in the Democratic field, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, come in low, polling at 15 percent and 2 percent respectively.

"While Sanders has drawn large and boisterous crowds, including here at Winthrop, it appears that those crowds might not have significant overlap with likely primary voters," said Winthrop Poll Director Scott Huffmon. "South Carolina is Clinton Country."

Clinton's numbers in the November 2015 poll paint a much different picture of her chances from Winthrop's November 2007 survey of South Carolina Democratic voters. In the poll, Clinton polled at 33 percent, with then-Sen. Barack Obama holding a close second at 22.7 percent.

Obama would go on to win the Democratic Primary in South Carolina with 55.4 percent of the vote.

"Polls are a snapshot right now," said pollster and former South Carolina Republican Party executive director Scott Malyerck. Malyerck says a poll now is not necessarily indicative of what will happen on Election Day.

"We've seen people rise and fall based on their debate performances," Malyerck said, pointing out Newt Gingrich's win in the Palmetto State in 2012. "He did well in the debates so he won the South Carolina Primary. He didn't do well after that."

The 832 South Carolinians polled by the University also seemed split over who they wanted to see take on a Democratic contender next November. Real Estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump led both the question of who would be easiest to beat in the general election and who would be the hardest candidate to beat in November.

"South Carolina Democratic Primary Voters appear to be ambivalent about Trump, with more than one in five viewing him as the greatest threat," Huffmon observed, "while nearly four in ten speculate that opposing Trump would make the path of the Democratic nominee much easier."

Trump maintains a strong presence on the campaign trail, holding the front runner spot in the GOP race for months, despite attacks from other candidates in the race.

"The Trump candidacy is a phenomenon we don't understand," Malyerck commented, taking a page from Charles Dickens. "Trump is all things to all people. He's the best guy and the worst guy."

Malyerck also said Trump's seeming popularity points to a bigger picture in South Carolina politics.

"Look at the election yesterday," Maleryck said. "You had an incumbent Columbia city councilman thrown out, the West Columbia mayor thrown out, it is an anti-incumbent year."

While Hillary Clinton leads the pack in voter support, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley leads the pack in number of voters who simply do not know much about him.

In several questions posed in the poll about O'Malley on questions regarding the candidate's honesty, favorability and capability, over half the voters polled selected "Not Familiar" or "Not Sure."

O'Malley's campaign, meanwhile, said he is the only candidate who has "a record of actions" in the race.

"We're confident that the more voters get to know him, the more they'll gravitate to his record of getting things done and bold, progressive vision for the future. We are building a strong team in South Carolina and look forward to getting to know the voters in the Palmetto State," O'Malley spokeswoman Haley Morris said.

O'Malley and Sanders will go head-to-head with Clinton this Friday at Winthrop during the MSNBC Presidential Primary Debate.

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