WASHINGTON (AP) — South Carolinians were voting in Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary with a greater sense of nostalgia for the Obama presidency than voters in earlier contests — likely reflecting the state’s sizable bloc of African American voters.
Voters in the Palmetto State were more likely than those in Iowa and New Hampshire to want to restore the political system to the way it was before President Donald Trump took office, as opposed to seeking a candidate who will enact fundamental change.
That’s according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,400 voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary.
About 4 in 10 voters in South Carolina wanted to return to the politics of the past, compared to about a third in Iowa and New Hampshire. That includes the roughly 50% of African American voters who said they want a Democratic presidential nominee who would emulate the presidency of Barack Obama — the first nonwhite individual to hold the office.
By comparison, roughly two-thirds of white voters want a presidential candidate who would bring fundamental change to Washington.
South Carolina’s primary provides the first deep look at the opinions and beliefs of African American voters, who have historically made up more than half of that state’s Democratic voters and will continue to wield influence in upcoming races. The inability of Democrats to mobilize African Americans in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan likely contributed to their 2016 loss to President Donald Trump.
Health care was the leading issue among the state’s Democratic voters, with about 4 in 10 calling it most important. Twenty-two percent viewed the economy as the top priority, while 14% identified climate change. Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire put greater emphasis on climate change and less importance on the economy.
South Carolina Democrats were also slightly more likely to identify race relations as the top issue, compared to previous states.
About 6 in 10 voters said they support reparations for slavery, an issue that revealed a sharp racial divide. African Americans were vastly more supportive of compensation than white voters. About 8 in 10 black voters support the government making cash payments to people whose ancestors and relatives were enslaved, compared to just about 3 in 10 white voters.
Roughly three-quarters of all South Carolina voters favored reforming the criminal justice system to reduce the emphasis on policing and incarceration for low-level offenses. Majorities of white and black voters expressed support.
There were significant racial divides on the type of president that voters seek.
About 9 in 10 black voters said it was very important that a nominee cares about people like them, while about 7 in 10 whites said the same. Separately, about 8 in 10 black voters want a candidate with the “right experience,” compared to just about 5 in 10 white voters.
South Carolina voters appeared to be following the election closely. Nearly all of them said they watched a TV ad for a Democratic presidential candidate in the past few weeks, while about three-quarters said they viewed one of the recent debates.