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Press Release 2010

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The 2010 Election Aiken County Exit Poll: A Descriptive AnalysisA public service research report co-sponsored by the USCA History and Political Science Department and the USCA Social Science and Business Research LabRobert Botsch, Professor of Political Science and SSR Lab Director Patrick Long, Research AssistantDecember 2, 2010All conclusions in this report are solely those of the authors and do not represent any position or opinion of the University of South Carolina Aiken.0Executive Summary Every election year students in the political science research methods class at USC Aiken perform an exit poll of Aiken County voters. Students surveyed 758 voters in ten precincts that represented all major areas of the county with a response rate of 78%. Sampling error on any question answered by all respondents is plus or minus four percentage points. Following the survey students write individual research papers testing hypotheses. In addition, they jointly author a research report highlighting major findings in the survey with the editorial assistance of the professor, Dr. Robert Botsch. The major findings of this survey are highlighted in this summary. Details and analysis are in the report that follows. Turnout. Turnout among registered voters in 2010 was higher than in the 2006 election, but 24 percentage points lower than in 2008 presidential election. Differences in who turned out significantly boosted the normal Republican advantage. The Governor’s Election. Republican Nikki Haley had broad based support across the county, running ten percentage points ahead of her state total of 51%. She won nearly nine in ten votes among the 55% of all voters who either leaned toward Republicans or who were strong Republicans. The Tea Party Movement. Tea Party supporters comprised 43% of all voters in the county, a slightly higher proportion of voters than across the nation in 2010. Supporters were very distrustful of government, strongly conservative, Republican, and almost exclusively white. Tea Party Republicans were significantly more conservative than non Tea Party Republicans. The County Government Office Complex. A slight majority of voters preferred keeping the present county office complex on Richland Avenue than rebuilding it. Those preferring keeping the complex were more likely to be Tea Party supporters, were older, and may be less well informed, being less likely to read a daily newspaper. Extending Income Tax Cuts. By a ratio of five to three, voters preferred extending the tax cuts on all income rather than only on the first $250,000 in income. Tea Party supporters and non supporters had opposing opinions on this issue, with supporters strongly favoring a blanket extension and most non supporters favoring the extension on only the first $250,000 in income. Do the Unemployed Want to Work. More than two thirds of all voters believed that unemployed people would take jobs if they were available. Those most likely to feel thatthe unemployed do not really try to find jobs were Tea Party supporters and Republicans.1School Vouchers for private schools. Voters were evenly divided between those who believed a school voucher system would improve education by providing more competition and those who felt that vouchers would take money away from public schools. Tea Party supporters strongly favored vouchers, while non supporters opposedvouchers.The role of government in health care. A plurality of voters (42%) wanted government tomake sure that everyone has at least minimal access to health care. Just over a third preferred a free market approach, and the remaining 19% preferred the current system in which government only insures care for limited groups of people, such as the old and disabled. Tea Party supporters strongly favored the free market approach while non supporters preferred a greater government role. As family income decreased, support for a greater government role increased. Abortion. Only one in five voters took a strict pro life position. Two in five were strictly pro choice, and the remaining two in five supported abortion in limited circumstances. Religious fundamentalists were more likely to take a pro life position (37%), but even among this group, relatively more chose one of the other two positions that would allow abortion. Women and those with more education were more likely to take the pro choiceposition than men or those with less education. Social Security. More than four in five voters (84%) wanted to keep Social Security and only make changes that are necessary to insure that it is financially sound. Support wasbroad as well as deep. We could not find any demographic or political group that preferred to phase out the program and replace it with voluntary savings. Even three-fourths of the Tea Party supporters who generally oppose government programs favored mending rather than ending Social Security.Government Spending: Stimulus Versus Cuts. A majority of Aiken voters (55%) said they would prefer cutting spending to reduce deficits even if that meant major cuts in programs rather than the government running deficits to try and save jobs and stimulatethe economy. Tea Party supporters were most in favor of cuts. Voters with lower family incomes who are most vulnerable to job loss and in need of government help tended to favor government spending.Blame for Economic Woes. Voters tended affix blame for the economic woes facing the nation according to party identification. Republicans blamed Obama, Democrats blamedBush, and independents split almost evenly on whom to blame. Overall voters were roughly evenly split, with a little over a third blaming Obama, a little under a third blaming Bush, one in five blaming both and one in ten blaming neither. Irritation with Hispanic Immigration. We asked voters if they were irritated when they hear people speaking Spanish in public places. Overall, just over half said “no,” a fourth 2said “yes,” and the remainder said “sometimes.” Whites, Tea Party supporters, and religious fundamentalists were most likely to say they feel irritation at least sometimes. Constitutional Issues: Religious Test for Office and Censorship. Voters were rather evenly divided on whether a candidate’s religion was important in making voting decisions. It was most important for self-identified religious fundamentalists. More than three out of four fundamentalists said that a candidate’s religion was moderately or very


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