Exit poll shows partisanship a big factor in 2012 election

  • Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 11:58 p.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 1:49 p.m.
Barbara White signs in to vote absentee at the Aiken County Registration and Elections office. Also waiting to sign in are Eugene and Cathy White and Cindy Whaley.
Barbara White signs in to vote absentee at the Aiken County Registration and Elections office. Also waiting to sign in are Eugene and Cathy White and Cindy Whaley.

Bob Botsch’s class at USC Aiken has been conducting exit polls during the presidential elections since the 1980s, and this year was no different.

His students interviewed 753 voters from 10 districts across the county. Those voters completed a 39-question survey that asked everything from party affiliation to thoughts on the fiscal cliff.

According to the local exit poll, partisanship was a big factor with Republican candidate Mitt Romney pulling in 98 percent of the votes from the 52 percent who classified themselves as Republican. President Barack Obama won 94 percent of the 32 percent of voters who identified as Democrats.

Romney also won 51 percent of the Independent vote compared to 40 percent for Obama.

While the South has favored Republican in the past, some groups are trending Democrat, including voters under 30, who identified as Democrat at about 40 percent compared to 45 percent who identified as Republican. Those voters made up 16 percent of those interviewed.

Fifty-four percent of single voters were strongly Democrat compared to 29 percent who identified as Republican. Forty-one percent of non-Southerners identified as Democrat compared to 34 percent who identified as Republican.

An explanation for groups trending Democrat was offered by saying they were relatively much more moderate on a range of ethnic and social issues, including, “whether Obama was a Muslim, gay marriage, feeling that blacks, Hispanics, atheists or gays have too much political power, whether to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds and abortion,” according to the exit poll.

Support for the tea party movement declined from 2010 when 43 percent of voters supported the movement, compared to 30 percent this year.

The tea party supporters were, according to the study, “overwhelmingly white, conservative and Republican. They tended to be older, wealthier, more likely to be married and more likely to self-identify as religious fundamentalists.”

The supposed gender gap also did not play much into voting in Aiken County, but there was a big marriage gap.

Men and women voted similarly in Aiken, but 70 percent of married voters voted for Romney and 28 percent for Obama, compared nationally to 56 percent for Romney and 42 percent for Obama.

Other questions showed that 69 percent of Democrats were pro-choice compared to 40 percent of non-tea party Republicans. Only 8 percent of Democrats believe the country is worse off than it was four years ago compared to 64 percent of Republicans.

More than 85 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they wanted to preserve Social Security, while no group had more than 20 percent say they were pro-life.

Republicans opposed gay marriage at 66 percent compared to 22 percent of Democrats, but only the tea party Republicans were more than 30 percent (38) in agreement that religion was extremely important in their vote choice.

Voters were also asked in the exit poll if they preferred elected leaders who were willing to “compromise with members of the other party” or who stick “by their party principles and refuse to compromise.”

The overwhelming majority of voters who had an opinion chose compromise (84 percent) over party principles (16 percent). However, the exit poll did see some partisan difference in that moderate and strong Republicans were about twice as likely to prefer party principles over compromise (21 percent) relative to moderate and strong Democrats. (11 percent), according to the study.

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