Political poll continues to spotlight Winthrop University ahead of national event

Published: Nov. 4, 2015 at 11:02 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 5:22 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - New results from a Winthrop Poll show that presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is preferred by democratic voters in South Carolina.

The Winthrop Poll was developed by leaders at Winthrop University more than 10 years ago.

"There was no regular measure of public opinion in South Carolina, so over the next several years, I got the University to buy in," said Scott Huffmon with Winthrop.

Since that time, the poll has been a driving force behind the campus' efforts to be a leader in political studies.

The campus is preparing for lots of national attention when Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley come for the First in the South Presidential Candidates forum.

This week's poll questions were developed by Huffmon to give candidates a better idea of what state voters think before the event.

"We hope to be able to provide a baseline for the candidates, so that they come in knowing, here's where I stand with South Carolina democratic voters today, how's my performance tonight going to affect that?" Huffmon said.

Huffmon creates the questions and arranges them in an order that won't be biased or misleading to the callers.

Student workers then get busy making dozens of phone calls to registered voters across the state.

"If we get 800 or 1000 completions we've called 35,000, 40,000 phone numbers and you have to do that in order to make sure that you have a truly random sample," Huffmon said.

Students like Claudia Salazer say they've enjoyed participating in the poll, that has had results posted nationwide.

"Our findings have been published in CNN, New York Times, The Washington Post," Salazar said.

Wednesday, poll results were published from the answers given to these callers over the weekend.

"It's always what's kind of in the news lately, so this specific poll is democratic poll," Salazar said.

According to a news release on the poll, Hillary Clinton has a strong lead among Democratic voters in the state.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were farther behind.

Pollers also found Clinton had a higher support among the state's African American voters, which is important according to Huffmon.

"Up to about 56% of the Democratic presidential primary in south Carolina is non-white, now that's not true in Iowa, that's not true in New Hampshire, so we're the first real test for that core constituency for the democrats," Huffmon said.

Huffmon is proud of the work by his students and director Allie Briggs.

He'll be attending Friday's forum and is looking forward to seeing how candidates go after voters in the state.

"In South Carolina, republicans hold every state wide office, so the South Carolina democratic party has been rebuilding, and this is part of it, it's bringing a lot of attention for the democratic party and I think they're hoping it's going to be a springboard," Huffmon said.

WBTV will continue to feature stories about Winthrop University's event. Look for more on how the school and Rock Hill leaders are preparing for the large crowds Thursday.

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