Fact Check

Offensive South Carolina Exit Poll

A 2014 South Carolina exit poll featured questions many voters found racially offensive.

Published Nov. 5, 2014

South Carolina exit polls asked voters whether black people had become "too demanding" on the subject of civil rights.

On 4 November 2014, voters in South Carolina participated in a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Republican Jim DeMint, who resigned on 1 January 2013. Tim Scott, who had been appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill that seat until the special election, received the most votes and thus became the first black senator elected in the South since Reconstruction. But a controversial exit poll inspired by Scott's candidacy led many outside the jurisdiction to wonder whether purported images of the questions included in that poll were legitimate.

A local news station reported voters across the ideological spectrum found the South Carolina exit polls to be offensive, with several questions prompting bipartisan distaste. Voters were asked whether black people worked hard enough, whether slavery was still a hindrance, whether black people tried hard enough to advance themselves economically, and perhaps most controversially, whether black people had pressed too hard for equal rights.

Clemson University political science professor David Woodard insisted the poll questions were not meant to be provocative and were merely intended to gauge public sentiment following Scott's election. A collaborator told the news outlet negative reaction to the questions came from both sides of the aisle:

Woodard partnered with Paul White Jr., a doctoral candidate in political science from University of South Carolina on this project. White handed out polls in Columbia.

"You had liberals getting offended. You had conservatives getting offended. It was all over the place," said White.

Mashable observed the questions were atypical for political polling purposes and were instead derived from a psychological test created in the 1980s to identify subtle racial biases:

[I]t turns out that the poll was worded this way on purpose. Researchers took the questions, word for word, from the Modern Racism Scale — a psychological test developed in 1986 that can be used to determine an individual's inherent discriminations.

Around 1,000 South Carolina voters were given the exit poll after the 4 November 2014 election.


Jordan, Dave.   "Exit Poll Angers Some SC Voters."     WSPA   5 November 2014.

Ries, Brian.   "South Carolina Exit Poll Asks If Blacks Are 'Too Demanding In Their Push For Equal Rights'."     Mashable   6 November 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.