Survey Design and Methodology:
5000 calls were placed to a list of voters in South Carolina's first congressional district that had voted in recent previous general elections. The list was commercially obtained from Gravis Marketing Inc.; after the purchase of the phone number list Gravis was not involved in polling activity. Calls from the list were conducted from April 29-May 1, 2013.
The survey consisted of six questions: A likely voter screen, a Sanford/Colbert-Busch topline, a Grooms/Colbert-Busch topline, an Obama/Romney survey, and questions about the respondent's gender and race. Individuals that indicated a disinclination to vote on May 7 or did not complete the six-question survey were not counted as part of the results, effectively preserving the toplines while lowering the undecided percentage. The only statistical weighting conducted for this poll was by race; RRH believed the raw data did not sample African-American voters at a high enough rate, based on the district's demographics.
In order to isolate the impact of Mark Sanford's personal life on the race, we chose to test a 2014 re-election scenario for a hypothetical US Congresswoman Colbert-Busch. The Republican we chose to pit against her was State Sen. Larry Grooms, because of two factors: 1) his relatively high name recognition from his recent Congressional run and 2) his similar ideology to Sanford. Grooms's inclusion in the poll is in no way meant to encourage or discourage a potential future run by the Senator or to suggest that RRH prefers him as a candidate over any other Republican. We merely felt that Grooms was the Republican who best facilitated an apples-to-apples comparison to isolate Sanford's personal issues.
Less than a week before next Tuesday's election, Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch are tied at 46%, with 7% undecided. In a possible 2014 preview, State Sen. Larry Grooms takes 47% to 40% for Colbert-Busch, with 14% undecided. The disparate results among two candidates with similar ideologies suggest that Sanford's personal troubles are indeed the main reason for Colbert-Busch's strong performance in the heavily Republican district.
2012 presidential results in the survey were 54% Romney, 41% Obama. This result shows a turnout marginally more Democratic than the turnout in the 2012 presidential election, in which Romney won the seat 58-40. The relatively Democratic electorate suggests somewhat high enthusiasm among Democrats and liberals, and somewhat decreased enthusiasm among conservatives.
The electorate we found was 60% Female and 40% Male. The electorate was weighted to the following racial balance: 79% White, 15% African American, 2% Hispanic, 1% Asian, and 3% Other races.
We find a very small gender gap, with females slightly preferring Colbert-Busch and males slightly preferring Sanford. This works to Colbert-Busch’s benefit in the heavily female sample. As one would expect, African-Americans vote heavily for Colbert-Busch, while whites support Sanford by a moderate margin.
Colbert-Busch is doing a very good job at making sure Obama voters stay loyal, taking well over 90% of the Obama vote. Sanford does decently with Romney voters, but his 79% is far below Colbert-Busch's score among Obama partisans. A reason for Sanford to be optimistic is the undecided population, which is much more heavily Romney-supporting than the voters that have made up their minds.
Grooms does a better job of keeping Romney voters from defecting to Colbert-Busch, and even peels off a few Obama voters, accounting for his strong lead over Colbert-Busch.
Sanford/Colbert-Busch Performance by County. Red: Sanford by more than 10. Light Blue: Colbert-Busch by less than 10. Dark Blue: Colbert-Busch by more than 10. Black: No data.
|County||County % of survey||County % of district||Sanford||Colbert-Busch||Undecided|
Our sample undervalues the most Republican parts of the district in Berkeley and Dorchester relative to their proportion of the population. It appears that the socially conservative suburban areas north of Charleston have depressed enthusiasm. If Sanford can get those voters out at the same rate as Colbert-Busch is turning out her base in Beaufort and Charleston, he will win easily. But as of now it is easy to conclude that there is a turnout disparity working in Colbert-Busch’s favor.
On the other hand, this survey has some good news for Sanford. He is holding things close in Charleston County, the most Democratic and largest portion of the district. Beaufort County may be a place Sanford wants to devote more time in the final days, as his 52-39 deficit to Colbert-Busch means he is dramatically underperforming a generic Republican in that region.
The RRH-PMI survey shows a district very enthusiastic about the upcoming special election, and a race that is dead-even heading into the final stretch. The high response rate to the survey suggests that turnout on Tuesday will be high across the board.
The closeness of the race in the normally Republican district is almost certainly due exclusively to Republican ex-Gov. Mark Sanford's personal issues. Problematic for Sanford is the suggestion that some of his core voters, particularly Social Conservatives in the suburban Charleston area, may stay home Tuesday. Sanford should focus his resources on getting these conservatives (who may be put off by his personal issues) to hold their nose and turn out. An encouraging point for Sanford is the undecided population, who overwhelmingly voted for Romney. Sanford would be best to try and stick to the issues for the last few days, and hope that the policy positions of these voters can outweigh their personal qualms about the former Governor to either get them out to vote or pull them off the fence. Conversely, Colbert-Busch is best served by sticking to personal issues and going negative to drive down turnout. A geographic point of concern for Sanford is the Beaufort area; the normally Republican-friendly part of the district has become Colbert-Busch's major base, giving her a double-digit margin. Sanford will be well served to devote time to that area in the next few days.
If Colbert-Busch enters Congress, she will almost certainly find an uphill battle for re-election awaiting her in 2014. State Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau), who came in third in the special election primary, does not have to give up his Senate seat to make a bid. Without Sanford's baggage, Grooms causes the district to revert to form and takes an early lead over Colbert-Busch. While this margin suggests that Colbert-Busch could win a full term in 2014, she would have to be regarded as the underdog right from the start without the help of Sanford's personal issues.
About Red Racing Horses:
Red Racing Horses is a collaborative community of politics and election enthusiasts. We provide daily news updates, thoughtful analysis, and stimulating discussion of electoral politics. While our blog is Republican-oriented, we do not discuss policy and are open to respectful commentators of all political views. Run by a team of six volunteer hobbyists, RRH has no connections with any candidate or campaign in this race, or any national, state, or local political figures or organizations active in this election. Our funding for this poll comes entirely from the generous donations of RRH readers interested in seeing quality polling.
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