Exit poll: African Americans drove Clinton’s primary victory

BY    | Updated: Feb 27, 2016 at 8:33 PM
BIRMINGHAM, AL - FEBRUARY 27:  Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets patrons at Yo Mama's restaurant on February 27, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. Hillary Clinton held a campaign rally in Alabama before returning to South Carolina for her South Carolina primary night event, where African Americans and women helped drive a her victory.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, AL – FEBRUARY 27: Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets patrons at Yo Mama’s restaurant on February 27, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. Hillary Clinton held a campaign rally in Alabama before returning to South Carolina for her South Carolina primary night event, where African Americans and women helped drive a her victory. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton won a clear and commanding victory in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary on Saturday thanks to the overwhelming support of black voters.

South Carolina was the first contest of the 2016 race in which nonwhite voters have outnumbered whites. Clinton was also supported by three-quarters of women, and even ate into Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support among young people by earning the majority of votes from blacks under age 45, according to preliminary results of the exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.

Here’s a look at what the exit poll found:

Black voters overwhelmingly for Clinton

About 6 in 10 voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary were black, by far the largest proportion of African Americans in any of the contests so far. And more than 8 in 10 black voters supported Clinton.

By contrast, Sanders was supported by about 6 in 10 white voters.

Black primary voters were more likely to say they trust Clinton than Sanders to handle race relations, with 4 in 10 saying they only trust her and less than 1 in 10 saying they only trust him. Just over 4 in 10 said they trust both.

Among all primary voters Saturday — black and white — 8 in 10 said the issue of race relations was important to their vote. Among black primary voters, a third said it was the most important issue to them.

Younger women flip to Clinton

Six in 10 South Carolina primary voters were women, and three-quarters of them said they voted for Clinton. She was also supported by about 6 in 10 men.

White women were evenly divided between the candidates, while 7 in 10 white men said they voted for Sanders.

Clinton ate into Sanders’ advantage among young voters. Although he was supported by about two-thirds of primary voters under 30, she was supported by about two-thirds of those between the ages of 30 and 44, as well as three-quarters of those over age 45.

Clinton won a majority of women under 45, a group that backed Sanders in the previous contests. This time around, he was supported by 6 in 10 women under 30, but 7 in 10 of those between age 30 and 44 said they voted for Clinton.

White voters under 45 overwhelmingly supported Sanders, but among blacks, that group went overwhelmingly for Clinton.

Clinton won the support of majorities of liberals, moderates and conservatives in Saturday’s contest. Eight in 10 primary voters said they were Democrats, and three-quarters of them were Clinton voters. Among independents, 6 in 10 backed Sanders.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in Columbia, South Carolina February 26, 2016.  Brian Snyder/Reuters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in Columbia, South Carolina February 26, 2016. Brian Snyder/Reuters

What honesty problem?

Clinton was supported by 9 in 10 voters saying experience was the most important quality in choosing a candidate, and 8 in 10 of those saying it was most important to choose a candidate who can win in November. She was also supported by 6 in 10 voters saying they want a candidate who cares about people like them.

Sanders held only a slight lead among those looking for a candidate who is honest and trustworthy, after Democrats looking for those two qualities overwhelmingly supported Sanders in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. He was supported by large majorities of white voters who cared most about a candidate being honest or caring about people like them.

Questions about Clinton’s honesty have dogged her throughout the campaign and appeared to be a weakness in earlier contests. But in South Carolina, 7 in 10 voters said Clinton is honest, slightly more than the two-thirds who said the same of Sanders

Clinton trusted on foreign policy

Half of voters said they trust only Clinton — not Sanders — to handle an international crisis, while another third of voters said they trust both of them. Only 1 in 10 said they trust Sanders over Clinton.

Clinton won majorities of voters saying they think the economy, health care or terrorism are the most important issue facing the country, and she even appeared to lead among those saying income inequality is most important.

Four in 10 South Carolina primary voters said the economy is the most important issue, more than in any other state so far.

Experience and continuity

Seven in 10 voters said they want the next president to generally continue President Barack Obama’s policies, while just 2 in 10 want the next president’s policies to be more liberal. Clinton was supported by 8 in 10 of those wanting a continuation of Obama’s policies, while Sanders was supported by two-thirds of those wanting more liberal policies.

Eight in 10 primary voters Saturday said they prefer a candidate with political experience to an outsider, and three quarters of those voters said they supported Clinton.

The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as Democratic voters left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites in South Carolina. The preliminary results include interviews with 1,398 Democratic primary voters and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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