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Biden Maintains Lead in South Carolina, Sanders in Second, Steyer a Close Third.

In the days following a decisive win for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucus, and with less than a week until Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary, former Vice President Joe Biden leads by 8 percentage points among likely voters in the South Carolina Democratic primary, according to the latest East Carolina University (ECU) Poll. The poll was conducted February 23-24, n=1142, (+/-3.37) . 

Of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates competing in the South Carolina primary, Biden (31%) is followed by Bernie Sanders at 23%, Tom Steyer at 20%, Elizabeth Warren at 8%, Pete Buttigieg at 6%, Amy Klobuchar at 2%, and Tulsi Gabbard at 2%.* The final 8% remain undecided. (Among these undecided voters, 36% answered that they “lean most” towards supporting Biden; 27% for Sanders, 14% for Steyer; 11% for Warren; 6% for Buttigieg; 3% for Klobuchar; and 2% for Gabbard.)   

Biden’s 8-point margin over Sanders is the same as the previous ECU Poll of the South Carolina Democratic primary, which was conducted immediately following the New Hampshire primary. However, Biden’s lead of 8 percentage points is down significantly from the 18-point lead that he held in the first ECU Poll in South Carolina just before the Iowa caucus.

In the most recent ECU Poll, Biden continues to win support from African American voters in South Carolina (n=695, +/- 4.3). Biden leads all candidates among African American voters at 34%. Tom Steyer is in second with 24%, followed by Bernie Sanders (22%), Elizabeth Warren (6%), Pete Buttigieg (2%), Tulsi Gabbard (2%), and Amy Klobuchar (less than 1%).

Among all likely voters who are 65 years of age and older, Biden leads at 42%, followed by Steyer (19%), Sanders (10%), Warren (6%), Klobuchar (6%), Buttigieg (5%), and Gabbard (2%).

Among those under the age of 35 years, Sanders leads Steyer 34% to 25%, followed by Biden (12%), Warren (12%), Gabbard (3%), Buttigieg (2%), and Klobuchar (1%).

There are also differences among African American voters by age. Younger African Americans (ages 18-34) favor Tom Steyer (34%) and Bernie Sanders (24%), with Joe Biden a distant third (12%) and Elizabeth Warren (9%) in fourth. (The remaining candidates are all below 5%.) Among African Americans age 35 and older, Biden leads with 40%, followed by Steyer and Sanders with 21% each. (The remaining candidates are all below 5%.)

Among young white voters under the age of 35, Sanders wins the support of 57%. By comparison, Elizabeth Warren wins 19% and Joe Biden wins only 8% of white voters under the age of 35. (The remaining candidates are all below 5%.)

Of those who report that they will be voting in the South Carolina primary for the first time, Bernie Sanders leads all candidates with 32%. Tom Steyer follows with 20%, Joe Biden at 14%, and Elizabeth Warren at 9%. (The remaining candidates are all below 5%.) Among these first-time voters, 18% remain undecided.



* Michael Bloomberg is not on the Democratic primary ballot in South Carolina, although he remains a leading contender in national polls. When asked if he was on the ballot, “would Michael Bloomberg be your top choice to vote for in the Democratic primary,” 19% responded “yes.” Bloomberg’s absence from the ballot is most helpful to Tom Steyer and Joe Biden. Of those answering that Bloomberg would be their top choice, one-third (33%) report that they will be voting for Steyer, followed by 23% who report that they will be voting for Joe Biden.



This poll was conducted February 23-24, 2020. The sample consisted of likely Democratic voters, n=1142, in South Carolina, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.37 percentage points. The data were weighted by age, education, race, gender, and 2016 election modeling. The results based on race and age carry with them a higher margin of error due to the smaller sample size. Data were collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=710) and an online panel provided by Lucid (n=432).

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