2015 Exit Polling Recap

Here is some media coverage of this year’s exit polling activity. The Post and Courier included a day-time update on our efforts on Election Day: “Lowcountry voters undeterred by wet weather, poll workers say.” The P&C also featured a story on our exit polling on Election Night: “Exit poll smiles on John Tecklenburg, Leon Stavrinakis.” The Moultrie News also spotlighted this experience for our students: “Students get it right with town council election predictions.

In the November 8, 2015 edition, Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks builds upon the results of a survey question in our exit poll from Tuesday about full vs. part-time mayor for Mount Pleasant (“Mount Pleasant should listen to voters on strong-mayor government”). After highlighting the history and reliability of our students’ efforts over the years, Hicks focuses on the overwhelming support for a full-time mayor that was expressed in this survey question and expands upon it by looking at municipal government forms in other big cities in the region. The piece ends with a call to heed the exit poll results and move to a full-time mayor format in Mount Pleasant.  Beyond the lessons already learned from Tuesday about social skills, math, governance, statistics, etc., the students have now played a role in agenda setting.  This means their work has started/contributed to a public debate in Mount Pleasant.


2015 Preparation – We are a school, serving grades 3-12, 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.  Exit polling is an annual endeavor at University School of the Lowcountry.  This enables students to see firsthand the ebb and flow of turnout rates for the different types of elections because of the pattern of Congressional (and occasionally statewide and more) races in even-numbered years and municipal elections in odd-numbered years.  The students have learned about the candidates, marketing, and the issues facing the community.  We also hosted Brian Hicks for a presentation, whose biography of Charleston Mayor Joe Riley will be released in November 2015. Ten students also attended the Mount Pleasant Business Association’s October meeting which was a forum for the twelve candidates running for Town Council. Our students have also explored the value of exit polling in terms of statistics, sample size, location of precincts, turnout differences for different types of elections, and the diversity of voters they will encounter.  These are great lessons for preparing our students to be active and informed participants in their country.

We administered exit polls at thirteen locations across Mount Pleasant, garnering 597 of a possible 1300 (maximum of 100 per location) completed surveys:
Mt. Pleasant National Guard Armory, Alhambra Hall, Moultrie Middle School, Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant Park West Rec Center, Eastbridge Presbyterian Church, Seacoast Church, Mt. Pleasant Municipal Complex,  Jones Recreation Center, Brickyard Community Center, Wando High School, Greater Goodwill AME, and East Cooper Montessori Charter School

We administered exit polls at thirteen locations across the City of Charleston, garnering 623 of a possible 1300 (maximum of 100 per location) completed surveys:
Burke High School, Hazel Parker Playground, Drayton Hall Elementary, West Ashley Middle School, Stiles Point Elementary School, Daniel Island School, Mason Prep School,St. John’s High School, Sanders-Clyde School, James Island Charter High, Northbridge Baptist Church, Mitchell Elementary School, St. Andrew’s School of Math & Science

Here are our predictions and some of our survey results:
A. Mayor of Charleston: 
– John Tecklenburg clearly makes the run-off, winning outright 9 of the 13 precincts at which we administered polls. Although we have Leon Stavrinakis also making the run-off, the final numbers could show something closer (for example, Stavrinakis fared better than Deerin in 8 of the 13 precincts, but many were very tight).
40% John Tecklenburg (actual 35.6%) 
28% Leon Stavrinakis (actual 34.5%) 
23% Ginny Deerin (actual 17.5%) 
5% Maurice Washington (actual 5.5%) 
4% William Gregorie (actual 5.7%) 
1% Toby Smith (actual 1.1%) 
0% Write-In
The percentages were off a bit for the top 3 candidates, but we got the order of results correctly. 

B. Mount Pleasant Town Council:
– The roughly 600 completed exit polls yielded around 2200 votes for Town Council candidates (voters could select up to 4). Results below include the percentage of the whole and the absolute number. Bob Brimmer outpaced all of the candidates to win election, and we predict three of the following four will comprise the other winners of the evening: Joe Bustos, Will Haynie, Jim Owens, and Chris O’Neal (it was too close to call!).
15.8% (348) Bob Brimmer (actual 13.9%) 
12.7% (280) Joe Bustos (actual 13.7%) 
12% (265) Will Haynie (actual 12.5%) 
12% (264) Jim Owens (actual 12.4%) 
11.7% (258) Chris O’Neal (actual 10.4%) 
7.5% (165) Ben Bryson (actual 7%) 
7.3% (161) Chris Nickels (actual 7.5%) 
6.9 % (153) Rodley Millett (actual 7%) 
6.2% (136) Nick Collins (actual 5.8%) 
5.5% (121) Ken Glasson (actual 6.9%) 
1.5% (34) Julio Avendano (actual 1.5%) 
1% (23) Christian Bramson (actual 1.3%) 
We correctly predicted the top 5 in order. 

C. Mount Pleasant Recreation, Open Space, Senior Center Property Tax Referendum: 
– The Recreation Referendum passes. It lost in 4 of the 13 Mount Pleasant precincts we polled.
55% In favor (actual 48.2%) 
45% Opposed (actual 51.8%) 
We missed on this one. After deliberating on Wednesday after the elections, we feel that our briefly worded title-only for the referendum on our exit poll caused confusion in comparison to the more complicated text of the referendum itself. 

D. Special question about the fate of the USS Clamagore Submarine at Patriots Point (asked of Mount Pleasant and City of Charleston voters):
– “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?”

71% In favor,
29% Opposed
– We administered this question to voters in all of Charleston County last year, and it won in all precincts — 72% favoring and 28% opposing. This year, we polled Mount Pleasant and Charleston, and the result remained the same. 71% of voters want to see the Clamagore remain in the Lowcountry. 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!

E. Special question about the Mayor of Mount Pleasant:
– “Should the Mayor of Mount Pleasant be a full time job, or should it stay a part-time job?”

73% Full Time
27% Part Time
– Voters voted strongly in support of a full-time mayor in all 13 precincts. This issue will need to be taken up by the next Town Council.

F. Special question for City of Charleston residents :
– “One goal of retiring Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is the fundraising and groundbreaking of the International African American Museum adjacent to the Cooper River. Do you feel that this should be a major priority for the new mayor and City Council?”

65% In favor
35% Opposed
– Voters strongly supported this unfinished priority of Mayor Joe Riley.

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