A South Carolina exit poll has many on both sides of the aisle up in arms, calling it “shameful” and “overt racism.” The poll, handed out to voters in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville and Spartanburg, asked a series of questions — two of which certainly raised some eyebrows.
According to WSPA, the poll was conducted by David Woolard, a political science professor at Clemson University. Woodard defends his offensive questioning by saying he was attempting to prove that race has no bearing on white people’s choices in political candidates.
“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.” He claims the poll questions were used for “decades,” leading to their inclusion in his poll.
Of course, the Civil Rights Act is a mere 50 years old, so it is unsurprising that decades-old poll questions would include such a thing. Unfortunately for Woodard, this is 2014. Woodard says he is surprised by the reaction to the inflammatory polling.
“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. “You had liberals getting offended. You had conservatives getting offended. It was all over the place.”
The items in question are rather simple, and wholly offensive. One question asks voters to agree of disagree that “Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights.”
Another item in the poll asks voters to agree or disagree that “if black would try harder, they could be as well off as whites.”
A Daily Kos diary notes the reaction of one person who encountered the poll:
I guess you can say it was a typical election day for me. I am a liberal who has lived in South Carolina for almost 10 years. I was taking my five-year-old son with me for the first time so he could see me vote. When I go to the polls, I am used to seeing more Republicans than Democrats on the ballot. I am also used to these Democrats losing the race. Not only do I live in South Carolina, I live in one of the most conservative parts. I have accepted this and vote anyway, knowing that it is my civic duty. On November 4th, 2014, as I exited the polling station with my son I was stopped and asked to complete an exit poll. This was the first time I had ever been asked to do an exit poll so I will admit I was kind of excited. I hear about exit polls all the time on the news so I was happy to be able to say I had taken part in one. The first couple question were typical: “Who did you vote for…?,” “When did you make up your mind…?,” etc.
Then I got to this question:
Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve: Agree Disagree
I paused for a second and looked around. Others were filling this “exit poll” out so it had to be official, right?
I continued to other questions like:
Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights: Agree Disagree
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 blacks: Agree Disagree
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.
Watch a report on the controversy, below: