Poll: Edwards Ahead In S. Carolina

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., speaks at the Manchester City Library auditorium in Manchester, N.H., Jan. 20, 2004. AP

As the race for the Democratic nomination spreads across the country to the seven states holding primaries next week, Senator John Edwards is keeping his Southern advantage in the first Southern state to hold a Democratic primary, helped by voters' concerns about the economic cost of foreign trade to South Carolina and to themselves.

Edwards, a native South Carolinian and a Senator from neighboring North Carolina, currently garners 30 percent of the vote of likely Democratic primary voters there. John Kerry comes in second, with 18 percent. Three other candidates -- Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton and Howard Dean -- are tied for third place.

CHOICE FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
(Democratic primary voters)

John Edwards
30%
John Kerry
18%
Wesley Clark
11%
Al Sharpton
11%
Howard Dean
10%
Joe Lieberman
3%
Dennis Kucinich
0%
Don't know
16%

Among white likely voters, Edwards is the clear favorite. He leads with 41 percent of the vote, followed by Kerry with 19 percent. Black voters have not yet agreed on a single candidate -- five candidates are in double-digits among likely black Democratic primary voters. 22 percent of likely black voters would vote for Sharpton. Edwards drops to 15 percent among black voters. This poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, mostly before Rep. James Clyburn endorsed Kerry.

CHOICE FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
(Democratic primary voters)

John Edwards
Whites
41%
Blacks
15%
John Kerry
Whites
19%
Blacks
17%
Wesley Clark
Whites
12%
Blacks
10%
Howard Dean
Whites
9%
Blacks
10%
Al Sharpton
Whites
3%
Blacks
22%
Joe Lieberman
Whites
6%
Blacks
0%
Dennis Kucinich
Whites
0%
Blacks
1%
Don't Know
Whites
9%
Blacks
25%

Women voters are more likely to support Edwards than are men; 33 percent of women say they would vote for him, as would 24 percent of men. John Kerry, Howard Dean and Al Sharpton fare better among men than they do among women.

Upper income voters (with household incomes of $50,000 or more) are more likely than those with lower incomes to support John Edwards.

South Carolina has an open primary and any registered voter can vote in it. In fact, in this poll, one in ten likely Democratic primary voters think of themselves as Republicans.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES: JOBS AND TRADE
Jobs and trade are the dominant issues for South Carolina primary voters, and voters are more concerned with the candidates' stance on free trade than with the candidates' positions on the war in Iraq. Jobs and trade are also more important to voters in South Carolina than a candidates' past military service or Southern upbringing.

Nearly twice as many voters want to hear the candidates' positions on jobs and the economy than say that healthcare is their top issue – a distinct difference from New Hampshire Democratic primary voters' concerns. Iraq is far behind.

WANT TO HEAR THE CANDIDATES DISCUSS…

Jobs and the economy
36%
Education
19%
Healthcare
17%
Iraq
10%
Terrorism and national security
9%

Most Democratic primary voters in South Carolina think foreign trade has adversely affected their communities: three-quarters of voters believe that trade has decreased the number of jobs in their area.

TRADE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES HAS….

Increased jobs in your area
10%
Decreased jobs in you area
74%
Had no effect
10%

And more than half of Democratic primary voters want a nominee who favors increased restrictions on free trade.

WOULD YOU PREFER THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE…

Favor fewer restrictions on trade
12%
Favor more restrictions on trade
56%
It doesn't matter
25%

On the other hand, even though John Edwards is currently ahead, South Carolina's primary voters say it doesn't matter whether the nominee is a Southerner.


WOULD YOU PREFER THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE…

Be from the South
15%
Not be from the South
1%
It doesn't matter
83%

Three out of four voters say it doesn't matter whether or not the nominee has served in the military.

WOULD YOU PREFER THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE…

Served in the military
23%
Did not serve in the military
2%
It doesn't matter
75%

South Carolina primary voters, like Democratic voters nationally, want a nominee who opposed the Iraq war -- but more than one-third say this issue does not matter in their vote.

WOULD YOU PREFER THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE…

Supported the Iraq war
20%
Opposed the Iraq war
39%
It doesn't matter
37%

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FALL
When all registered voters in South Carolina are asked how they would vote in November -- for George W. Bush or for an unnamed Democrat -- the race is surprisingly close. 45 percent now say they would vote for Bush, and 43 percent would support the Democrat.

2004 ELECTION VOTE
(Registered voters)

President Bush
45%
Democratic candidate
43%

Electability remains a concern to the Democratic electorate. Most voters would prefer a candidate who agrees with them on the issues than one who can win in November, but over one-third say they are concerned mainly with electability.

WOULD YOU PREFER THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE BE SOMEONE WHO…
(Likely primary voters)

Agrees with you on most issues
58%
Can win in November
34%



This poll was conducted among a statewide random sample of 807 registered voters, including 365 likely Democratic primary voters, sampled from lists of registered voters and supplemented by voters interviewed from a random sample of South Carolina telephone numbers that are unlisted. Interviews were conducted January 28-29, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the full sample of registered voters and plus or minus five percentage points for results based on likely Democratic primary voters.



For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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