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Turnout in South Carolina makes Biden’s win even more impressive – The Washington Post


Donald Trump

Turnout in South Carolina makes Biden’s win even more impressive – The Washington Post

Update (March 2): After additional early ballots were counted, the 2020 vote total in South Carolina has exceeded 538,000. The analysis below covers votes counted as of 8 a.m. on March 1. South Carolina’s presidential primary may signal a shift in the Democratic race, not just because of who won but because of who voted.…

Update (March 2): After additional early ballots were counted, the 2020 vote total in South Carolina has exceeded 538,000. The analysis below covers votes counted as of 8 a.m. on March 1.

South Carolina’s presidential primary may signal a shift in the Democratic race, not just because of who won but because of who voted.

Around 528,000 South Carolinians turned out in the 2020 Democratic primary, a remarkable show of voter engagement compared to four years ago. Former vice president Joe Biden ran up his totals in black communities but also won areas dominated by groups he has struggled to connect with, notably white and higher income voters. These areas showed some of the largest turnout increases in the state.

Overall, South Carolina’s vote total was a massive increase over the 373,000 turnout for 2016 and nearly matched the votes cast in Obama’s 2008 primary win.

Percentage change in votes by precinct, 2016 vs. 2020 Democratic primary

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Percentage

increase

in vote

Charleston

25%

100%

Increase

300%

Decrease

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

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change in

vote

Charleston

25%

100%

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300%

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Increase

Decrease

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Percentage

change

in vote

25%

50%

100%

Charleston

200%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Myrtle Beach

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in vote

25%

Charleston

50%

100%

200%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Myrtle Beach

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in vote

25%

Charleston

50%

100%

200%

300%

According to exit polling, Biden won 61 percent of black voters. These voters made up more than half of the electorate, and they were easily the most important block for his victory. However, a precinct-level analysis by The Post shows that while statewide turnout increased by about 40 percent over 2016, the parts of the state that saw the largest spikes were the most white and upper income.

[Which of these 2020 Democrats agrees with you most?]

Biden’s 29-point margin among these demographics may be surprising given his poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. The size of his win suggests he attracted different types of energized Democratic voters, or at least resisted inroads from other candidates.

Blackest precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

146,355 (+26% from 2016)

Biden’s

margin

of victory

+46

Whitest precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

127,517 (+131%)

Biden’s

margin

of victory

+18

Blackest precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

146,355 (+26% from 2016)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+46

Whitest precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

127,517 (+131%)

Votes

Biden’s margin

of victory

+18

Blackest precincts

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Increase

Decrease

Percentage

change in vote

Percentage

change in vote

25%

25%

Charleston

50%

50%

100%

100%

200%

200%

300%

300%

146,355 (+26% from 2016)

Votes

+46

Biden’s margin

of victory

Whitest precincts

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Increase

Increase

Decrease

Decrease

Percentage

change in vote

Percentage

change in vote

25%

25%

Charleston

50%

50%

100%

100%

200%

200%

300%

300%

Votes

127,517 (+131%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+18

Blackest precincts

Whitest precincts

Greenville

Greenville

Rock Hill

Rock Hill

Florence

Florence

Columbia

Columbia

Myrtle Beach

Aiken

Aiken

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

Charleston

Charleston

25%

100%

300%

Votes

146,355 (+26% from 2016)

Votes

127,517 (+131%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+46

Biden’s margin

of victory

+18

Blackest precincts

Whitest precincts

Rock Hill

Rock Hill

Greenville

Greenville

Florence

Florence

Columbia

Increase

Columbia

Decrease

Aiken

Percentage change

in vote

Aiken

25%

100%

300%

Charleston

Charleston

Votes

146,355 (+26% from 2016)

Votes

127,517 (+131%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+46

Biden’s margin

of victory

+18

These maps show how turnout jumped, sometimes in unexpected ways, across precincts with different demographics.

Across the core of Biden’s geographic base, the precincts with the highest concentration of blacks, the number of voters jumped by a quarter over the 2016 Democratic primary. At Orangeburg’s Brookdale Elementary School precinct, south of Columbia and a mile from historically black South Carolina State University, 589 people voted, 154 more than four years ago, and Biden won by more than 60 percentage points. Biden won every precinct in this group, which includes swaths of rural areas as well as cities and towns.

Turnout jumped even more, more than doubling from 2016, in precincts with the most whites. These areas include coastal communities like Charleston, with some of the wealthiest parts of the state, as well as the Charlotte suburbs near Rock Hill and the far western foothills. About half of the 160 precincts that Sanders won are in this group, and his supporters may be credited for some of the added voters.

Biden won only 40 percent of voters of these most-white areas but still performed 18 points better than Sanders. According to exit polls, he beat Sanders statewide among white voters 33 percent to 23 percent.



Supporters wait for former vice president Joe Biden to speak after he was declared winner of the South Carolina primary. (Luke Sharrett for The Washington Post)

South Carolina’s primaries are open, and voters can decide year-to-year to take part in a party’s contest. Unlike 2008 and 2016, there was no Republican presidential primary held in the state this year, so some Republican-leaning voters probably participated. According to exit polls, just five percent of 2020 voters identified as Republicans, but 26 percent identified as “independent or something else.” In 2016, that figure was 16 percent.

OLDEST precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

127,222 (+89% from 2016)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+32

YOUNGEST precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in votes

25%

100%

300%

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

156,954 (+60%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+22

OLDEST precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

127,222 (+89% from 2016)

Votes

+32

Biden’s margin

of victory

youngest precincts

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

25%

100%

300%

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Charleston

Votes

156,954 (+60%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+22

OLDEST precincts

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Increase

Decrease

Decrease

Percentage

change in vote

Percentage

change in vote

25%

25%

Charleston

50%

50%

100%

100%

200%

200%

300%

300%

Votes

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127,222 (+89% from 2016)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+32

YOUNGEST precincts

Rock Hill

Greenville

Florence

Columbia

Aiken

Increase

Decrease

Decrease

Percentage

change in vote

Percentage

change in vote

Charleston

25%

25%

50%

50%

100%

100%

200%

200%

300%

300%

Votes

156,954 (+60%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+22

OLDEST precincts

youngeST precincts

Greenville

Rock Hill

Greenville

Rock Hill

Florence

Florence

Columbia

Columbia

Myrtle Beach

Aiken

Aiken

Increase

Decrease

Percentage change

in vote

Charleston

Charleston

25%

100%

300%

Votes

127,222 (+89% from 2016)

Votes

156,954 (+60%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+32

Biden’s margin

of victory

+22

OLDEST precincts

youngEST precincts

Rock Hill

Rock Hill

Greenville

Greenville

Florence

Florence

Columbia

Increase

Columbia

Decrease

Aiken

Percentage change

in vote

Aiken

25%

100%

300%

Charleston

Charleston

Votes

127,222 (+89% from 2016)

Votes

156,954 (+60%)

Biden’s margin

of victory

+32

Biden’s margin

of victory

+22

South Carolina, especially its growing coastal communities, is a magnet for retirees. On Tuesday, voting almost doubled in precincts with the most registered voters over age 64. They represent another sector of Biden’s base, and he won a majority of their votes.

Turnout also surged across precincts with the most voters under age 45. Sanders won an additional 29 precincts here. At upstate Pickens County’s west-central precinct, which votes at the Central-Clemson Library, turnout jumped from 62 to 148, and Sanders won with 57 votes.

Across these younger precincts as a whole, Biden won by more than 20 points. While Sanders still was the most popular candidate among 18- to 29-year-olds, Biden eked out a win among 30- to 44-year-olds. He had previously won seven percent of these voters in Nevada, his highest figure among the first three states.



Meena Khalili holds her daughter as she votes in the South Carolina primary at Logan Elementary School. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Biden focused on South Carolina for months and scored a key endorsement from Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) right before the primary. With Super Tuesday coming soon, a key question is whether South Carolina will turn out to be an outlier or the beginning of a trend.

Super Tuesday is heavy on Southern states, with Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas all participating. If Biden can hold onto the coalition of voters he drew in South Carolina — including his large edge among black voters — he’ll rack up delegate counts in these states. At the very least, that would narrow Sen. Bernie Sanders’s path to winning a majority of pledged delegates.

Super Tuesday

Before Super Tuesday

155 delegates

1,357 delegates

After Super Tuesday

2,467 delegates

N.H.

Vt.

Maine

Minn.

Iowa

Mass.

Nev.

Utah

Colo.

Calif.

Va.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ark.

S.C.

Ala.

Texas

Amer. Samoa

Puerto Rico

Dem. Abroad

Guam

N. Marianas

Virgin Islands

Source: The Green Papers

THE WASHINGTON POST

Super Tuesday

Before Super Tuesday

155 delegates

1,357 delegates

After Super Tuesday

2,467 delegates

N.H.

Vt.

Maine

Minn.

Mass.

Iowa

Nev.

Utah

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ark.

Amer. Samoa

S.C.

Dem. Abroad

Ala.

N. Marianas

Texas

Puerto Rico

Guam

Virgin Islands

Source: The Green Papers

THE WASHINGTON POST

After Super Tuesday

Before Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday

1,357 delegates

155 delegates

2,467 delegates

N.H.

Wash.

Vt.

Maine

N.D.

Mont.

Minn.

Ore.

Wis.

N.Y.

Idaho

S.D.

Wyo.

Mich.

Mass.

Pa.

IA

Neb.

R.I.

Nev.

Ohio

Ind.

Ill.

Utah

Conn.

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Kan.

Calif.

N.J.

Mo.

Ky.

Del.

N.C.

Tenn.

Md.

Okla.

Ark.

Ariz.

N.M.

S.C.

D.C.

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

La.

Texas

Fla.

Alaska

Amer. Samoa

Puerto Rico

Hawaii

Dem. Abroad

Guam

N. Marianas

Virgin Islands

Source: The Green Papers

THE WASHINGTON POST

After Super Tuesday

Before Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday

1,357 delegates

155 delegates

2,467 delegates

N.H.

Wash.

Vt.

Maine

N.D.

Mont.

Minn.

Ore.

Wis.

N.Y.

Idaho

S.D.

Wyo.

Mich.

Mass.

Pa.

IA

Neb.

R.I.

Nev.

Ohio

Ind.

Ill.

Utah

Conn.

Calif.

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Kan.

N.J.

Mo.

Ky.

Del.

N.C.

Tenn.

Md.

Okla.

Ark.

Ariz.

N.M.

S.C.

D.C.

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

La.

Texas

Fla.

Alaska

Hawaii

Amer. Samoa

Puerto Rico

Dem. Abroad

Guam

N. Marianas

Virgin Islands

Source: The Green Papers

THE WASHINGTON POST

Before Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday

After Super Tuesday

1,357 delegates

2,467 delegates

155 delegates

N.H.

FEB. 11

Wash.

Maine

MARCH 10

Vt.

MARCH 3

Mont.

N.D.

MARCH 3

Minn.

JUNE 2

MARCH 10

Ore.

MARCH 3

Mass.

MARCH 3

Wis.

MAY 19

Idaho

N.Y.

S.D.

APRIL 7

MARCH 10

Mich.

APRIL 28

JUNE 2

Wyo.

R.I.

APRIL 28

MARCH 10

APRIL 4

Iowa

Pa.

Neb.

Nev.

Conn.

APRIL 28

APRIL 28

Ohio

FEB. 3

Ill.

MAY 12

Ind.

Utah

FEB. 22

N.J.

MARCH 17

JUNE 2

MARCH 17

Colo.

W.V.

Calif.

MARCH 3

MAY 5

Va.

Kan.

Del.

Mo.

APRIL 28

MARCH 3

MAY 12

Ky.

MARCH 3

MARCH 3

MAY 2

MARCH 10

Md.

MAY 19

APRIL 28

N.C.

Tenn.

D.C.

MARCH 3

JUNE 2

Okla.

Ariz.

MARCH 3

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

MARCH 3

MARCH 17

FEB. 29

JUNE 2

MARCH 3

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

Amer. Samoa

MARCH 3

MARCH 3

MARCH 24

Dem. Abroad

MARCH 3-10

La.

Texas

N. Marianas

MARCH 14

APRIL 4

Alaska

MARCH 3

Fla.

Puerto Rico

MARCH 29

APRIL 4

Hawaii

MARCH 17

Guam

APRIL 4

MAY 2

Virgin Islands

JUNE 6

Source: The Green Papers

THE WASHINGTON POST

If Biden’s improvement among white, wealthier voters extends to primaries in New England and Minnesota, he could find himself on a path to clinching the nomination outright.

However, the former vice president is still unproven among Hispanic voters, which make up a negligible share of South Carolina’s electorate. These voters, which Sanders dominated in the Nevada caucuses, are critical to California and Texas, the two top delegate prizes of Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday also will be the first contests with Mike Bloomberg, former New York mayor, on the ballots.

About this story. The Post analyzed election returns and demographic characteristics of more than 2,000 S.C. precincts with available data for Democratic presidential primaries in 2016 and this year. The more than 500 precincts highlighted on each demographic map represent the top quarter of all precincts for each group. They were selected using precinct level census estimates from ESRI and voter registration data from L2. Election results, from the South Carolina Election Commission, are as of 8 a.m. March 1 and are unofficial.

Lenny Bronner contributed to this report.

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