EXIT POLLING 2016
“Democracy needs people to be in the habit of thinking about the merits of the other view, and it’s truly a habit. It’s a way of behaving. It’s not the kind of thing that you can just never do and then suddenly do with ease. Citizens in a democracy need to practice these skills, just like reading or playing an instrument. To do it well, you have to do it all the time." - Constitutional Law Professor Richard Primus, University of Michigan (from " A Lesson in Democracy for 9-Year-Olds" The Atlantic, 11/4/2016).
Our 2016 efforts were spotlighted in one of the evening's lead articles on the Post and Courier ("Exit polls show Clinton wins Charleston County") and WCBD Channel 2 profiled our civics and exit polling program ("Kids conduct Lowcountry exit polls") on their evening broadcast. On November 10, Post and Courier reporter Paul Bowers gave a comprehensive look at our exit polling ("Student exit pollsters saw the election unfold up close"). On November 13, Robert Behre of the Post and Courier showcased the agenda-setting role of our exit polling by citing the results of an opinion question we posed to voters in Mt. Pleasant about full-time or part mayor and another about the idea of single-member districts for Town Council ("Mount Pleasant closer to a single-member district vote"). On November 16, Charlie Morrison of the Daniel Island news focused on our efforts at precincts on Daniel Island and shared the story of each member of our group ("The Polling Prodigies").
Click here for a video explanation of our exploration of civics and exit polling.
Here is a long feature story about our exit polling program from the Charleston City Paper from 2012 ("Across Charleston County, students run a serious exit poll").
* For fun, it is neat to read about one of the first campaign events we went to in January 2008. USL went to a John McCain rally at Alex's Restaurant (now Page's Okra Grill), and it was an enlightening experience for the students. You can read about the adventure and see some pictures here.
Overview - University School, serving grades 3-12, is a school that explores elections and the democratic process, and this means hearing from different candidates, learning about different parties, and exploring issues of governance and civics. This is an annual experience, and it culminates in our yearly exit polling project, and this entails students going to precincts on Election Day to poll voters on their choices. We then return to campus that day and make informed predictions of the outcomes of the races. It is a great learning activity about mathematics, statistics, and the democratic process for us all. Doing it yearly also enables students to see first-hand the ebb and flow of turnout rates for the different types of elections, etc., and it helps to develop students who will be active participants in the civic arena. You can see an example here of our predictions and results from the 2015 municipal elections.
2016 Preparation - Our students watch the news every morning, and we strive to keep them apprised of the issues of the day. Students already met and spoke with representatives of the Green Party, the Libertarian candidate for US House District #1, Michael Grier, Jr., Democratic SC State Senator Marlon Kimpson, and Charleston County Republican Party Chair, Larry Kobrovsky. This allows them to ask questions, have civil discussions about positions and differences, and refine their critical thinking skills by making up their own minds. Students watched and discussed Vote America! Honor the Fight, Exercise Your Right, a 30 minute award-winning documentary produced by the Texas Young Lawyers Association that outlines the struggles of previous generations to guarantee the right to vote for all citizens) and gained perspective through a comparative approach by looking at other nations (for example, watching the film Suffragette about women's suffrage in England). To highlight the issue of voting rights, all of our High School students flew to Texas in January 2016, and this included a visit to the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library to gain a comprehensive perspective on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In January 2017, all of our Middle School students are traveling to Alabama, and a key component will be exploring the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma and walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honor of the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights in March 1965. In mid-February 2016, groups of students had the chance to attend presidential events for Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton,John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump. This gave them the chance to assess presidential candidates and how they present themselves.
Details - We'll be focusing on most of the contested races in Charleston County, including presidential, Congressional, school board, and other local races and the transportation referendum. Our exit poll will also include 1-2 questions of interest (prior ones have included asking if voters in Mount Pleasant wanted a full-time mayor) and our regular questions about quality of life issues facing the municipalities in Charleston County. You can see examples here, including comparing our predictions to actual results, in our results from the 2015 municipal elections (which includes links to earlier years of exit polling).
We administered exit polls at 24 locations across Charleston County and 2 in Berkeley County:
Mt. Pleasant National Guard Armory, Christ Church Episcopal, East Cooper Montessori Charter School, Seacoast Church, Wando High School, Greater Goodwill AME, Jones Recreation Center, Mt. Pleasant Municipal Complex, Sunrise Presbyterian Church, Isle of Palms Recreation Center, Mason Prep School, Stiles Point Elementary. Midland Park Primary, Northbridge Baptist Church, A.C. Corcoran Elementary, Malcom Hursey Elementary, Burke High School, Mitchell Elementary School, Lambs Elementary, St. John's High School, Mary Ford Elementary, St. Andrew's School of Math & Science, James Island Charter High, and West Ashley Middle School. In Berkeley County, we'll be at the Daniel Island School and the Daniel Island Club.
Sharing Our Results - We like to use our results to predict the outcome. However, the students also have learned that exit polls can affect voter behavior if they are released before the end of voting. Therefore, our results are compiled but not released to our community and beyond until after the polls close. The results will be posted on our website and Facebook page at that time.
Here are our predictions and some of our survey results:
Results from approximately 1900 completed exit polls conducted at 24 polling locations in Charleston County:
Mt. Pleasant National Guard Armory, Christ Church Episcopal, East Cooper Montessori Charter School, Seacoast Church, Wando High School, Greater Goodwill AME, Jones Recreation Center, Mt. Pleasant Municipal Complex, Sunrise Presbyterian Church, Isle of Palms Recreation Center, Mason Prep School, Stiles Point Elementary, Midland Park Primary, Northbridge Baptist Church, A.C. Corcoran Elementary, Malcom Hursey Elementary, Burke High School, Mitchell Elementary School, Lambs Elementary, St. John's High School, Mary Ford Elementary, St. Andrew's School of Math & Science, James Island Charter High, and West Ashley Middle School.
* Special question for Mount Pleasant voters: Should the Mayor of Mount Pleasant be a full time job, or should it stay a part-time job?
82.4% (486 voters) In Favor, Yes
17.6% (104 voters) Opposed, No
* 590 voters responded to this question. Just like last year’s exit poll, it overwhelmingly passed in every voting location but at a higher overall level (73% last year). One has to wonder when Town Council will address the will of the voters on this issue. Results are from 8 polling locations across Mount Pleasant (National Guard Armory, Christ Church, Greater Goodwill AME, Seacoast, Jones Center, East Cooper Montessori, Wando, Municipal Complex)
* Special question for Mount Pleasant voters: Should Mount Pleasant change from electing Town Council members at-large (current system) to single-member geographic districts (vote for one member to represent your region)?
58.5% (335) In Favor, Yes
41.5% (238) Opposed, No
* 573 voters answered this question, and it was endorsed in every single site we visited. That being said, our numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Proponents of a referendum in favor of this were at voting locations today. They were engaging voters and seeking signatures before citizens voted -- and therefore before they completed our exit poll. This likely had an effect on our numbers. Results are from 8 polling locations across Mount Pleasant (National Guard Armory, Christ Church, Greater Goodwill AME, Seacoast, Jones Center, East Cooper Montessori, Wando, Municipal Complex)
* Special exit poll question for Daniel Island voters about the fate of the USS Clamagore Submarine at Patriots Point:
- "The submarine USS Clamagore is slated to be moved from Patriots Point sometime soon, leaving the nearest sub museums in Mobile, AL and Baltimore, MD. Do you want the elected officials in S.C. to create a solution so it can stay in the Lowcountry?"
86% In favor,
We have a place in our heart for the USS Clamagore / Save The USS Clamagore (SS-343) and its former crew members, speaking and touring with them and trying to share their story. We administered this question to voters in all of Charleston County in 2015, and it won in all precincts -- 71% favoring and 29% opposing. The same results and margins came from our 2014 exit polling. This issue is just looking for an elected official to carry the banner and represent the wishes of his/her constituents and devise a solution!
A. Charleston County - President:
- Hillary Clinton wins Charleston County. She carried 19 of the 24 polling sites that we visited across the County.
54% (1063 votes) Hillary Clinton (Democratic) Actual 50.6%
37.8% (745 votes) Donald Trump (Republican) Actual 42.8%
5.4% (106 votes) Gary Johnson (Libertarian) Actual 4.1%
1.3% (25 votes) Jill Stein (Green) Actual 1.0%
(.8%) (16 votes) Evan McMullin (Independence) Actual 1.1%
(.3%) (5 votes) Peter Skewes (American) Actual .1%
(.1%) (1 vote) None of the Above
B. Charleston County – U.S. Senate:
- Tim Scott wins Charleston County. He carried 20 of the 24 polling sites that we visited across the County.
61.3% (1135 votes) Tim Scott (Republican) Actual 56.2%
35.5% (658 votes) Thomas Dixon (Green/Democratic/Work. Families) Actual 41.4%
2.6% (48 votes) Bill Bledsoe (Constitution / Libertarian) Actual 1.8%
.5% (9 votes) Rebel Michael Scarborough (American) Actual .5%
.1% (1 vote) None of the Above / Write-In
C. Charleston County - Auditor:
- Elizabeth Moffly's dominance in East of the Cooper precincts was offset by Tecklenburg's strength in all other areas of the County.
56.5% (991 votes) Peter Tecklenburg (Democratic) Actual 56.4%
43.5% (763 votes) Elizabeth Moffly (Republican / Libertarian) Actual 43.6%
0% (0 votes) None of the Above / Write-In
D. Charleston County - Treasurer:
- Our numbers show a Tinkler victory, but we are really uncertain about this one. The results were close in many precincts across the County, but strength in downtown Charleston and North Charleston may push Tinkler over the top.
52.9% (916 votes) Mary Tinkler (Democratic / Working Families) Actual 50.3%
47.1% (815 votes) Andrew Smith (Republican / Libertarian) Actual 49.7%
E. Charleston County – School Board - Peninsula (one opening)
- Todd Garrett decisively retains his seat. He won 21 of the 24 polling sites we visited in Charleston County.
69% (776 votes) Todd Garrett Actual 66%
31% (348 votes) Tony Lewis Actual 33.4%
F. Charleston County – School Board – North Area (two openings)
- Chris Collins is clearly re-elected. We feel pretty confident that Russ Patterson will win the second seat over Kevin Hollinshead.
36.7% (554 votes) Chris Collins Actual 36.9%
27% (408 votes) Russ Patterson Actual 22.6%
21.7% (328 votes) Kevin Hollinshead Actual 24.2%
14.6% (221 votes) Louis L. Smith Actual 15.9%
This was our only miss for the night. Still need to explore what enabled us to closely match the results for Collins and Smith but reverse (while being off the percentages even more) Patterson and Hollinshead.
G. Charleston County – School Board – West Ashley (two openings)
- Priscilla Jeffery looks to be the leading vote getter for one of the two open seats, and Michael Miller keeps his spot on the CCSD School Board.
39.3% (544 votes) Priscilla Jeffery Actual 35.4%
35.8% (495 votes) Michael Miller Actual 36.2%
24.9% (344 votes) Gary Leonard Actual 28.1%
Our percentages were off a bit, but we identified the top two finishers -- in incorrect order.
H. Charleston County - Roads/Infrastructure/Mass Transit/Greenbelts Sales Tax Referendum:
- Very interesting results here. The referendum was defeated in 5 of the 24 sites we visited and tied in 3 others. We feel it will pass.
55.9% (946 votes) In Favor, Yes Actual 51.6%
44.1% (746 votes) Opposed, No Actual 48.4%