Poll: Rice leading Tinubu in 7th race

Gloria Tinubu knows her campaign is going to have to run at full bore from now until Nov. 6 if she is to triumph over Tom Rice to be the first representative of South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District.

“We will close the gap,” Tinubu, a Democrat, confidently said Wednesday morning. “We will get ahead.”

But she can’t count on Rice’s campaign slacking off despite its 13 percent lead in a Winthrop University poll made public just hours earlier.

“I’m going to keep my head down and keep charging for the goal,” said Rice, the Republican’s nominee for the new seat.

In the poll, 48.9 percent of the respondents said they plan to vote for Rice on election day while 36.2 percent say they’ll vote for Tinubu. Even if all of the 10.3 percent who said they are undecided were to vote for Tinubu, that wouldn’t overcome Rice’s lead in the poll.

Tinubu said those statistics can change if she can get her message out to enough voters. Rice said he’s ahead because voters buy in to his message.

“We’re working very aggressively,” Tinubu said.

“We’ve been working really really hard,” Rice said.

The poll consisted of telephone interviews with 981 registered voters in the eight-county 7th District, 878 of whom said they are likely to vote. About 50 percent of the respondents were randomly selected from registration-based lists, and the rest were either from random dial calls or cell phone lists, said Scott Huffmon, the Winthrop political science professor who conducted the poll.

The lists of wireless phones had to be culled further so those interviewed also wouldn’t have land lines, which would theoretically give the person two chances to answer.

About a third of the respondents said they weren’t aware that they live in a new Congressional district and just 5.3 percent could name Glenn McConnell as the state’s lieutenant governor. Tinubu said the lack of awareness means that everyone -- candidates, the state, the media -- need to do more to educate the electorate.

Rice and Huffmon, on the other hand, said people have weightier things on their minds than the identity of their own Congressional district.

Rice said the high number of unemployed in most of the district’s counties so concern voters that the importance of the district’s boundaries has much less significance.

Huffmon said he believes most voters have a good general knowledge of politics, but are not so good with the specifics of their Congressional districts, not only in the 7th, but across the map.

“If anything,” Huffmon said, “I was surprised that over a fifth of the people know John Roberts is chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Normally, he would have expected fewer to know.

An overwhelming majority of those polled, 87.9 percent, said they are not members of the Tea Party and 30.3 percent said their opinion of labor unions is neither positive nor negative.

A plurality, however, think government is headed in the wrong direction at the federal, state and local levels. The voters were almost evenly divided (49 percent to 45 percent) on whether anyone who works hard enough can become financially successful in America.

The respondents of the poll, which was conducted in late September, represented almost exactly the demographic make-up of the district. For instance, 44.9 percent of the respondents were male compared with 44.53 percent among registered voters; 55.1 percent of the respondents were female compared with 55.47 percent of registered voters. Race and age categories of the respondents reflected the same close picture of the overall group of registered voters.

Huffmon and a colleague wrote a chapter in a book that’s now being printed about the fight in South Carolina over which area would get the new Congressional district. Huffmon said he expects the two will collaborate on a similar effort for the 7th District poll.

Huffmon said the opportunity to write and conduct the poll was something most political scientists don’t get, ever.

“It’s very very rare that you get a chance to be in a state where a whole new Congressional district is created,” he said.