Clinton’s Firewall in South Carolina is Melting Away…

In my last post, I talked about the liberal pundits who see black voters as “Hillary’s Firewall.” Even if Sanders wins in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which have large white populations, the pundits say he’ll find his support plummeting in a state like South Carolina, where black voters are firm Clinton supporters. I pointed out that in 2008, Clinton saw that firewall in South Carolina quickly melt after Obama’s victory in Iowa and his strong second-place finish in New Hampshire. I also pointed out that South Carolina representative Jim Clyburn, who is African American and one of the top Democrats in the House, was cautioning against the notion that black voters were solidly behind Clinton this time around.

Turns out, he was right. According to a poll released yesterday, support for Clinton in South Carolina is plummeting. Back in December, Clinton had a 36-point lead over Sanders. As of yesterday, that lead has been cut nearly in half. 47% of Democratic voters now favor Clinton; 28% favor Sanders. That’s still  a lot of support for Clinton, but it’s considerably smaller than in December, when she had 67% of the vote.

Now it’s true that Sanders hasn’t gotten those defectors from Clinton. What seems to have happened is that a significant chunk of her supporters are reconsidering their support (Sanders’s support is nearly what it was in December). Which could mean many things. One possibility is that voters are waiting to see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, where Sanders is doing well.

But the most interesting part of the polls is the racial and gender breakdown of the vote: Clinton is losing a higher percentage of her black supporters than of her white supporters, and Sanders is making greater gains among women than among men.

On December 17, this is how the polls looked (see the thirteenth page, which is labeled page six):

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 9.05.13 PM




On January 22 (the poll was actually concluded on the 15th), this is how the polls looked:

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 9.09.52 PM




Between December and January, we see major drops in support for Clinton among all categories of voters. But there’s a greater drop among black voters (30%) than among white voters (24% drop). There’s also a virtually identical drop among male (36%) and female (34%) voters.

Sanders’s support among black voters remains practically the same as it was in December (he sees a tiny drop among white voters). But more interesting is that while he’s made gains among both male and female voters, the gains among women (28%) are much greater than among men (13%).

H/t Alex Gourevitch, Arin Dube, and Seth Ackerman for pointing me to these polls.


  1. Don midwest January 24, 2016 at 10:27 am | #

    Am I stupid or is it Hillary and her campaign. It seems obvious that Blacks will flock to Bernie.

    There was a fairly long news segment on RT yesterday when a reporter armed with the facts about how Bill Clinton harmed blacks by prison sentencing and welfare “reform” and interviewed blacks at Hillary events. They did not realize what had been done in the past.

    Hillary is the establishment candidate, running an establishment election which I believe will fail this time.

    Thanks for your earlier article with 16 notes on the Democratic primary. It is getting a lot of comments on right now

    And because of that I came to your blog. Have never been here before.

  2. Kai Alexis Price January 24, 2016 at 5:08 pm | #

    Ummm…. Something is funny with the numbers here. The columns for January 22 don’t add up to 100% the way they do for December 17.

  3. Debra Cooper January 24, 2016 at 5:10 pm | #

    The person who wrote and sponsored EVERY Crime bill which disproportionately targeted black was Joe Biden, not Hillary Clinton. She didn’t write a one. She wasn’t even an elected official when Biden wrote the 3 bills in the 1980’s which harmed blacks…from disparate sentencing, to mandatory minimums to asset seizure. Biden wrote them all in the 1980’s when Bill and Hillary were in Arkansas. Biden wrote the 1993 bill crime bill which Bill did sign. Which even liberals like David Dinkins hailed because it provided funds for paying for more police.

    Selective blame just reveals selective bias.

    Bernie thinks racism is economically determined but it’s not. Racism…and sexism ….would continue and historically have continued …despite the economic schema. And blacks know that. Sanders doesn’t really. He continually defaults to economics will fix everything. It’s like applying the same medicine for every disease…but of course that isn’t going to work.

    • shannon Bertuch January 25, 2016 at 12:26 am | #

      I don’t know those facts you just charged to Biden, but I do know that the privatization of prisons and prison services escalated greatly under Bill Clintons presidency, which is why you see Hillary taking money from The prison for profit corporation.

    • Mark Gisleson (@MarkGisleson) January 25, 2016 at 10:26 am | #

      Joe Biden is a terrible progressive, just as HRC has a terrible problem with the truth. The GOP is despicable but the mainstream Democratic party is nearly as reprehensible.

      Bernie is democracy’s firewall. SC will get that.

  4. Debra Cooper January 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm | #

    On the subject of Cherry picking polls…or rather Berniepicking polls

    I put this entire article in

    This article originally appeared on Media Matters.
    There are lots of different ways campaigns can try to “win” the daily news cycle. Scoring a high-profile endorsement or releasing a new campaign commercial have proven successful in recent days, for example. Another traditional way is to post winning poll numbers, the catnip of the campaign press.

    If that’s the case, Hillary Clinton’s camp probably thought yesterday was shaping up as an overall positive. In the morning, a new Monmouth/KBUR poll was released showing the former secretary of state with a 9-point lead in the very competitive state of Iowa, which holds its caucus on February 1.

    A few hours later, Emerson College released an Iowa poll and it also indicated Clinton enjoyed a 9-point lead. At the time, it meant Clinton had led in eight of the previous ten Iowa polls taken, which translates into positive news coverage, right?


    Because around 5 p.m., CNN released its latest Iowa polling results, showing Senator Bernie Sanders with an 8-point advantage. So instead of basking in positive coverage about leading in two of the three latest Iowa polls, Clinton had to settle for “it’s a draw” reports regarding Thursday’s three Iowa polls, right?

    Wrong, again.

    Instead of reporting on the three polls, several major news organizations yesterday ignored the first two polls and only reported on the CNN survey.

    At The New York Times, the CNN poll was news: But the KBUR and Emerson polls were not covered.

    At Time, the CNN poll was big news. (“Sanders surges.”) But the KBUR and Emerson polls were not covered.

    At Politico, the CNN poll was big news. But the KBUR and Emerson polls were not covered.

    More? According to a TVEyes search, both CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today reported on the CNN poll (“a big change”) this morning, and ignored the KBUR and Emerson polls.

    For lots of news outlets, only the CNN Iowa poll was treated as newsworthy on Thursday. That’s remarkable.

    I wonder if this is how the newsroom conservations unfolded:

    Reporter: Three news Iowa polls!

    Editor: Who’s winning?

    Reporter: Clinton leads in two, Sanders in one.

    Editor: Just write up the Sanders poll.

    Reporter: And ignore the good-news-for-Clinton polls?

    Editor: Yeah.

    I understand that journalists sometimes like to cherrypick the polling results that cover a span of days or weeks and select the data that fits the tale scribes are trying to tell. It’s a dishonest tactic, but a common one inside newsrooms. But this goes so far beyond cherrypicking. This is just flat-out ignoring polling results from two surveys that are published on the same day that journalists swarm around a third poll with different results.

    The practice highlights the disturbing trend of campaign reporters and pundits wanting to tell a particular tale and then fitting (jamming?) information into that construct. In the past, the campaign press was generally tasked with reporting and reflecting what was happening on the trail, not with whipping contests into preferred narratives. (FYI, The press has been hyping Clinton’s ‘doomed’ polling numbers for months and months.)

    And for months, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has watched as very good polling results for her have been lightly brushed off by the press, especially national polls that often showed her with commanding leads in the Democratic primary, as well as her beating possible Republican challengers.

    The heavy-handed attempt to mold storylines has led to some baffling journalism. Today, the Post simply announced as fact that Sanders is “leading in polls by single digits in Iowa.” While Sanders has had leads in a few polls, Clinton is still up in the state according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

    Earlier this week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Clinton with a 25-point national lead over Sanders. On television, NBC seemed to signal its own poll didn’t matter much. Reporting from South Carolina for the NBC Nightly News on January 18, the day after the poll was released, Andrea Mitchell stressed that even though Clinton was “still far ahead in the national polls,” unnamed Democrats “say that if the dominos start falling in the first states the entire shape of this campaign could change very quickly.”

    Yes, Iowa’s close. Is polling for the caucus notoriously unreliable? It can be. So nobody really knows who’s going to win. But because some journalists seem to want Clinton to lose because it would make a better story (i.e. her polling’s a “nightmare“), that doesn’t give then the right to simply ignore polling data that dents their preferred narrative.

    • John F. January 24, 2016 at 6:39 pm | #

      National polls are completely worthless unless it’s demonstrated that the intensity of support for one candidate or another has high intensity. If not, the possibilities for change are just too great to offer a reliable prediction of future outcomes. The polls are showing that a significant enough percentage of support for HRC is low intensity. And of those who support her there is a widespread recognition that she suffers from both favorability and character issues. In the latest Monmouth/KBUR poll, 91% agreed that Sanders would represent the people and the majority believed HRC would represent big donors. The crux of the issue for many HRC voters seems to be a false belief (contradicted by other poll numbers) that she has the best chance in the general election. A win for Sanders in both Iowa & New Hampshire would almost certainly be significant enough to overcome the support currently buoying her. It’s clear that Sanders will walk away with New Hampshire and the polls are currently too close to call in Iowa, though it should be said that the trajectory has been dramatically moving in the direction of Sanders.

    • Mark Gisleson (@MarkGisleson) January 25, 2016 at 10:29 am | #

      Media Matters for America was started up by David Brock (multiple HRC super PACs) and John Podesta (HRC’s campaign chair). All their funders now support the Clinton campaign.

      MMfA is NOT an objective source for news, and frankly will probably now go out of business having absolutely trashed their reputation for objective analysis.

  5. John F. January 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm | #

    Thanks for your analysis. After looking at some of the polls I’ve realized that the popular narrative is widely inaccurate. The polls seem to show that support buoying HRC is due to voters’ assessment that she is the most electable candidate in the general election. The polls also show that voters believe HRC will be beholden to big donors while Sanders will represent the people. So Iowa & New Hampshire are critical for Sanders. If he were to win both states it should swing enough of the low intensity HRC & sizeable undecided voters into Sanders column causing a cascade of support across demographics in the remaining states.

  6. Gunnar Berg January 24, 2016 at 7:29 pm | #

    Forget the polls. Listen with your heart, think with your head. The electorate has had it with the establishment, oligarchy, cronyism, corporatism and a very select few buying elections. You don’t need polls to tell you that. The outcome will follow.

  7. Roquentin January 25, 2016 at 2:25 pm | #

    If Sanders candidacy has been good for one thing, it’s been bringing out the supposed liberals who are secret or not so secret conservatives. This thought was not only inspired by this entry, but the recent Jacobin piece on Klein and Yglesias trashing single payer healthcare in Vox. Sanders is almost like a dog whistle that draws out these closet reactionaries in the media and Democratic party apparatus. People, these are the same clowns who were cheerleading us into Iraq circa 2004. A leopard can’t change it’s spots, as the old saying goes.

  8. jonnybutter January 25, 2016 at 3:08 pm | #

    “Bernie thinks racism is economically determined but it’s not.”

    That is wildly unfair to Sanders (as is TNCoates’ recent piece about Sanders and reparations). I’d like to see some support for the assertion that Sanders believes racism is ‘economically determined’, whatever that even means.

    Making our society more economically equitable would not, in itself, eradicate racism, but..isn’t more equitability (which HRC doesn’t offer serious plans for) kind of important? In fact, isn’t it urgently necessary, if not sufficient?

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