Exit Polling Asked South Carolina Voters Whether Blacks Were ‘Too Demanding’ and ‘Trying Hard Enough’


In an article on its website with the rather oblique title, “Exit Poll Angers Some SC Voters,” (meaning others were simply delighted by it?), WSPA television in Spartanburg, S.C., reported that questions in exit polling after the midterm elections Tuesday were framed to elicit racist responses.

Voters were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with statements like:


  • “Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.”
  • “Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights.”
  • “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder, they could be as well off as whites.”

One shocked liberal voter demanded to know who had authorized the questions. Amber Lange, who said she worked for Clemson University, was surprised to learn the questions were written by a Clemson professor:

After I answered the questions, I handed it to the young woman who had given me the poll and asked who I could talk to about the questions or where I could find the results. She stated “You can contact Dr. Woodard at Clemson University, he is publishing a paper about it.” I was instantly confused because I thought she was going to give me a name of a governmental agency in Columbia that must be in charge. No. This was a faculty member at the institution I not only work at, but have a degree from. Why would Clemson University be supporting such questions being asked at a poll?

Can anyone just stand at a polling station, hand out questions and call it an exit poll? And honestly, the most glaring question to me is what type of research is this? Some of the questions are offensive in nature and the questions aren’t even about me, because I am White. But Black people voted in this election as well, and were asked these same questions. A person could literally have just passed four confederate flags on the way to vote only to be asked if “Blacks” are too demanding for their push for equal rights?!?

There are so many questions and the only answer I have is from Dr. Woodard, whom I did email. He stated the same as the young woman handing out the questions. He would be presenting and writing a paper about the poll in January. I know there are other people who took the poll and were offended and as confused as I was. Concerned citizens must stand up to people in our community who don’t seem to realize the impact these racist questions will have, especially on people of color. We were told this was an exit poll, not a survey about race, and that in itself is deceptive.

Yes, Dr. Woodard has freedom of speech and what he did might not be illegal. Does that mean we shouldn’t speak up when we see something that isn’t right? I might live in a conservative state where my candidates don’t always win but that doesn’t mean I have to keep my mouth shut about issues that matter to me and directly affect my community.

WSPA interviewed Prof. Woodward and a doctoral student who helped compile the questions:

“It was designed to take advantage of a political moment of Senator Tim Scott’s election as the first African-American from a southern state since reconstruction,” said Woodard. “It was not designed to be provocative.”

Woodard said the controversial statements mentioned in his polls were used by pollsters for decades and that’s why he chose to include it. He was surprised by the reaction.

“We do this every day. We didn’t think too much about it until we got it out in the field and saw that there was some reaction,” he said.

Woodard partnered with Paul White Jr., a doctoral candidate in political science from University of South Carolina on this project. White handed out polls in Columbia.

“You had liberals getting offended. You had conservatives getting offended. It was all over the place,” said White.

If nothing else, this is proof that academics need to descend from their ivory towers every so often and take the real world’s measure.

One comment

  • Phil
    November 7, 2014 - 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Must be the same people who think Gone With the Wind was a documentary on the good old days,

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