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In South Carolina, Exit Polls Fail Again

January 28, 2008, 2:47 pm | Posted by katie

South Carolina exit polls only asked Republican voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians.

Saturday’s SC exit polls failed to ask Democratic primary voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians – even though Republicans were asked that question in South Carolina last week. Republican SC primary voters were asked if they were Protestant, Catholic, LDS, Jewish, Muslim, etc., how often they attend religious services, if they would describe themselves as born-again of evangelical Christians, and how much it matters to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs. Dem primary voters were asked only about frequency of religious service attendance.

Based on the limited SC exit poll data we do have, it is informative to learn that 31% of SC Republican primary voters, versus 25% of Democrats, attend religious services more than weekly – just a 6% gap. It is informative to learn that Obama won 64% of Democrats who attend services more than weekly, compared to Huckabee who won 52% of Republicans.

It would have been informative to know what percentage of SC Democratic primary voters consider themselves born-again or evangelical Christian, as compared to 60% of SC Republican primary voters who consider themselves such. Unfortunately, we can’t make that comparison, because the exit poll pollsters did not collect that data or any other religious identification information about SC Democratic primary voters.

The only response we have received to the letter from prominent evangelical leaders, including David Neff, editor of Christianity Today and Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, to the polling directors of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the AP (members of the National Election Pool consortium) asking for this problem to be corrected, was insufficient: “We have limited real estate on our questionnaires,” it read. “We choose the questions based on our internal editorial discussions. To protect the integrity of the process, we routinely do not talk publicly about what questions are on our surveys.”

Just as in earlier primary states, the SC exit polls once again disregarded the increasing ideological diversity of evangelicals and other religious groups, and failed to assess the effectiveness of now-bipartisan faith outreach strategies.

In a heavily religious state such as SC, this is more inexcusable than ever.


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