For South Carolina politics pollster Scott Huffmon, the chance to measure voter opinions in a brand-new congressional district is a rare opportunity.
“It’s also rare as a political scientist to have a survey research lab and be able to look at the people from that district at very time they are getting new district,” he adds.
But the excitement about the birth of a new political territory may be left to political scientists and pundits.
Huffmon says while creation of the new federal district was a “huge deal in Columbia, a part of a lot of inside-Columbia, big fights over whether the new 7th would be located around Beaufort or Horry County and how far into the Pee Dee it might stretch.”
But the people living there knew–or cared–much less about it than lawmakers.
“Fully a third of registered voters did not even know that a new congressional district was created in South Carolina,” says Huffman.
That was revealed in Huffmon’s latest Winthrop Poll, which focused on registered or likely voters in the brand-new district. POLL RESULTS.
About 50 percent of registered voters told surveyors that the new district will make no difference in how they are represented.
When it came to knowledge of state government, 76 percent of registered voters in the new district did not know the current Lt. Governor of the state. More people (10.4 percent) said it is former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, though there have been two people in office since then.
Voter apathy is a widespread problem at local and national levels, says Huffmon, a political science professor.
“This is no different than the type of information that we have been getting all along when we do measures of voter political knowledge,” he says. “We kind of have this brought up to us every year in one form or another and we always talk about how important it is to have an educated electorate but we rarely do anything about it.”
In the race for that seat in Congress, it is clear at this point that Republican Tom Rice has a significant lead in a district drawn more in favor of a white Republican than a black Democrat. Rice leads Tinubu by 13 percent.
“It is still an incredible uphill battle and this was not a favorable district for her. Right now there are 10 percent still undecided and that is less than the gap that is between them,” says Huffmon.
A debate between Tinubu and Rice is scheduled for October 17 in Myrtle Beach.