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Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders lead in latest SC Democratic primary poll

The South Carolina Democratic Primary is on February 29, and is open to all voters since SC citizens do not register by party.
Credit: AP
Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and former Vice President Joe Biden gesture during a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas (AP Photo/John Locher)

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Joe Biden still leads in the latest poll ahead of next weekend's Democratic Presidential Primary in South Carolina, but that margin has narrowed so much that it's nearly a dead heat between he and Bernie Sanders.

The Winthrop Poll, a survey produced by Winthrop University in Rock Hill, was released this week. The state's primary is critical as the Democrats running for office continue to seek a frontrunner. 

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According to the poll, Former Vice-President Biden is the top choice for South Carolina voters who intend to vote in the upcoming primary, although the survey says almost 1 out of 5 voters are undecided and other candidates are gaining ground. The poll estimates Biden's lead is 24 percent to Vermont Senator Sanders' 19 percent. 

The South Carolina Democratic Primary is on February 29, and is open to all voters since South Carolina citizens do not register by party. This primary is important in the presidential process since it is the first in the South, and because of SC's large number of African-American voters. 

According to the survey, a fourth of those surveyed said they were leaning toward Biden. Of African American voters, Biden was nearing a third at 31 percent. 

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Sanders polled at 19 percent, businessman Tom Steyer polled at 15 percent, Mayor Pete Buttigieg polled at seven percent, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren polled at six percent, and the remaining two polled at under five percent. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not on this state's ballot.

According to the Winthrop Poll Director Dr. Scott Huffmon, Biden's numbers have dropped by double digits since the September poll. 

"Bernie Sanders, now second behind Biden, has more than doubled his support, both overall and among African American voters. With roughly one-fifth of voters remaining undecided, election day could hold some surprises. Elizabeth Warren has dropped by nearly 10 points since late September. One of the most significant movements came from Tom Steyer, whose ad blitz in the state took him from an unknown 2% in the late September Winthrop Poll to 15% now,” Huffmon said. 

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A little more than half of the 443 voters surveyed in the latest poll said they were sure of their choice. Forty-three percent of respondents said they might change their mind.

Eighty percent of those surveys said they would vote in November for the party’s nominee, compared to 85 percent of African-American voters. 

According to the survey, 44 percent said they wanted to beat President Donald Trump, while 45 percent said it was key for the Democratic nominee to share their views.

The Winthrop Poll found that it made little difference to S.C. voters for a candidate to be either openly gay or a woman. Voters, particularly African-American voters, were more hesitant to support candidates who did not reflect the diversity of their political party.

Phone calls were made Feb. 9-19 primarily during weekday evenings, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon and evening and were made in English. Results have a margin of error of +/- 4.7% at the 95% confidence level. Results that use all only African-American respondents have a margin of error of +/- 5.9% at the 95% confidence level.

The Winthrop Poll is paid for by Winthrop University. It is one of 18 threshold polls chosen by the Democratic National Committee to determine who among the two dozen 2020 presidential candidates qualify for debates.

If you would like to see the questions and the answers to the survey, you can click here.