The Red Tide: Overview of Political Public Opinion Studies in Aiken County Since the 1980s

Bob Botsch, January 2020

Course Outline (links to Power Points for classes will be added after the course is over)

Day 1: A Brief History of and Problems in Public Opinion Surveys, and the USC Aiken Social Science and Business Research Lab

Day 2: Partisanship Patterns In Aiken County and SC: Republican Dominance and Underlying Shifts (the storm below the calm?)

Day 3: Trends in Opinion in Aiken County since the 1980s

Day 4: Hypothesis Testing: Explaining Opinions

           Day 4 Assignment: Come to class with a testable hypothesis from one of the surveys below. E.g., here are two competing hypotheses. Which is a better explanation? 1) Education is inversely associated with thinking that Obama was really a Muslim.  2) Strength of partisanship in the Republican direction is positively associated with thinking that Obama is really a Muslim.



USC Aiken Social Sciences and Business Research Lab website  --  information about the lab and reports on many of the surveys performed by the lab and well as technical reports on methods and issues.

Below are links to all the survey questionnaires upon which the course is based. The percentage and frequency distributions are shown for each question in each survey.

All surveys have information about how the survey was performed as well as sampling error and other information such as weighting, which was sometimes done to increase the representativeness of the sample. 

All the surveys have rather complete demographic information with the exceptions of some of the early surveys when they were more of a class research exercise rather than studies done for community service and serious academic research. 

All surveys except early ones have both standard political identities of party and ideology.

Voting choice is always asked for major races and sometimes down-ballot races in even numbered years when exit surveys were performed (1992 -2018).

Major issue topics almost always were driven by current events in the nation and world as well as questions of local interest at the time, such as building a new more modern county government administrative complex or expanding the Savannah River Site.

Below are a listing of most topics covered for each of the surveys roughly in the order they appear on the survey, 

1985 Survey  (Southern self-identification, public education, teacher pay, sales tax for education, double taxation for city residents, county-wide zoning)

1986 Survey  (Drug testing for political candidates, banning offensive books and magazines, civil liberties)

1988 Survey  (Family economic situation change over last 3 years, national economic confidence, Dan Quayle as VP candidate)

1990 Survey (Possible war with Iraq, school bond referendum, local option sales tax, legislative ethics and legislators accepting bribes)

1991 Survey  (Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, whether respondent has experienced sexual harassment, SC cabinet government reorganization, race relations in AC, importance of various problems in SC, such as school overcrowding and taxes, overturn Roe v Wade, affirmative action)

1992 Survey  (School overcrowding, vouchers for private schools, environmental regulations, government provided health insurance, government money for rebuilding infrastructure, US House and Senate term limits, unpaid family leave proposal, GHW Bush job rating, better off, wealthy pay more taxes, various kinds of taxes and program cuts to reduce deficit, homosexuality job protection and life style acceptance, abortion)

1994 Survey  (Video poker games, education lottery, Confederate Battle Flag, abortion, candidates and religion, political efficacy, abortion, Christian Coalition, gun laws, secular humanism, crime and harsh punishment, have equal rights gone too far, fire teachers who are gay, candidates and Christian background, southern identity, fundamentalist identity)

1996 Survey (Divided control of White House and Congress, tax cuts versus balanced budget and school funding, abortion, concealed handgun regulations, homosexuality as acceptable lifestyle, discourage smoking, blue laws, gun control laws, reverse discrimination, religious fundamentalism)

1998 Survey (Video poker, accepting nuclear waste, teacher pay, Ken Star job approval, remove Clinton from office, use national budget surplus to help Social Security or give tax cut,  state run lottery, is faithful to spouse a private matter for politicians, newspaper reading, SC Constitutional law banning interracial marriage, hate crimes law, religious fundamentalism, southern identity)

1999 Survey (State run lottery, national government trust to do right, too complicated, wastes money, crooked, have no say in, don’t care what I think, newspaper reading, series of questions measuring political knowledge like US Senator term and names of SC Senators, registered to vote, religious fundamentalist, whether voted in 1998)

2000 Survey (Vote on lottery, reason for or against, teacher pay, better or worse off, reverse discrimination, lottery take money from poor, how much lottery will increase education budget, what to do with national budget surplus, handgun license, % of lottery proceeds go to education, global warming, senior drug program thru Medicare or private, should lottery money go to reduce taxes paid for education, newspaper reading, hate crime law, allow people to shift some Social Security money into stock market, religious fundamentalist, use web for news, southern identity)

2001 Survey (National government trust, government care what I think, questions about war on terror: how long it will last, rating of press coverage, losing sleep over, national id cards, CIA hire contract killers, CIA assassinations, monitor email, phone calls, credit card transactions. Newspaper reading, know someone hurt/killed, religious fundamentalist)

2002 Survey (Series of questions on lottery: has lottery been good for SC, how often buy tickets, should lottery money be shifted from college scholarships to k-12. Should we go to war with Iraq,  should governor appoint major cabinet heads, should parents be able to move children to school of choice, legal restrictions on land use, ballistic fingerprinting on all weapons sold, increase gas tax to eliminate state income tax, series of questions on how to deal with state budget shortfall: cut education spending, college spending, healthcare, environment, prisons, roads; raise taxes on tobacco, income, or sales. School vouchers, newspaper reading, news from web, confidence in new electronic paperless voting system, allow people to invest part of Social Security taxes into stock market, religious fundamentalist, southern identification)

2003 Survey (GW Bush job approval rating, relative importance of a list of issues in upcoming presidential election, relative importance of five general goals for AC (this was done for Aiken United Way), how often buy lottery tickets, whether lottery is good for SC, sense of social connectedness to others in AC, southern identification, reading paper as paper or on web, Iraq war worth it,

2004 Survey (Confidence/ease of use of new electronic voting machines, Iraq war mistake, replace federal income tax with national sales tax, series of political knowledge questions, allowing single women who are pregnant to teach in public schools, how often speak to neighbors, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, news from papers, tv and internet, better off, allow people to invest part of Social Security taxes into stock market, religious fundamentalist, southern id and where born or lived most of life)

2005 Survey (GW Bush job rating, Mark Sanford job rating in general and in issue area, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, spay/neuter program to reduce dog/cat population, Iraq War worth it, series of political knowledge questions, Tommy Moore trial run against Mark Sanford, religious fundamentalist, own dogs or cats,

2006 Survey (Vote on state constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, Iraq War a mistake, tax credits or vouchers for private or religious schools, series of political knowledge questions, legal restrictions on land use, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, get political news how often from papers, tv, and web, county-wide requirement for dog/cat licensing with higher rates for un-neutered pets, how many dogs and cats in household, religious fundamentalist, southern identity, relative importance of 6 national security priorities,

2007 Survey (GW Bush job rating, plans to vote in and vote choice in Dem/Rep presidential primary in SC, series of questions on immigration: level increase or decrease or stay same, good or bad for US in past, whether most coming to SC are illegal, hearing Spanish spoken in public is irritating, seeing signs in Spanish is irritating, too many immigrants in SC, too many get government assistance, whether they send most of money made back home, do they increase crime rate, take jobs from state residents or just jobs no one else wants. Series of political knowledge questions, Confederate Battle Flag on statehouse grounds, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, number of dogs/cats in household and number spay/neutered, Iraq War worth it, southern identity, days get political news from paper, internet, radio, tv, religious fundamentalist,

2008 Survey (Support for October financial rescue package, political influence of elderly, whites, wealthy and blacks, Biden v Palin if had separate VP vote, Confederate Battle Flag on statehouse grounds, know religion of McCain and Obama, Iraq War a mistake, importance of a candidates religion in vote, series of political knowledge questions, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, GW Bush job rating, days get political news from newspapers, tv, and internet, better off, religious fundamentalist, southern identity)

2009 Survey (Series of questions on health care: rating current US system, single payer system, US costs per person relative to European systems, does government run Medicare system, whether Americans or Europeans are more satisfied with their systems, rating Medicare system, kind of health care coverage respondent household has, satisfaction with current coverage, fear of losing current coverage, experienced dropped from coverage, denial of essential procedure, affordability of current coverage, preexisting conditions, no lifetime maximum benefits, require to buy health insurance, public plan to compete with private health insurance, Obama’s plan. Series of questions on Obama’s goals: complete federal takeover, cover illegal immigrants, cover abortions, is he trying to work with Republicans. Is Obama Muslim, should gov Sanford resign, be forcibly removed by legislature, Confederate Battle Flag on statehouse grounds, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, political influence of health care industry, elderly, Hispanics, blacks, southern identity, days get political news from newspapers, internet, radio tv, religious fundamentalist)

2010 Survey (Who to blame for economic problems, income tax cuts scheduled to end in 2011, Tea Party, prefer legislators to compromise, unemployed want to work, Obama a Muslim, school vouchers, can you affect what government does, importance of a candidate’s religion, trust government in Washington/SC to do right, irritated by Spanish spoken in public, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, cut deficits or stimulate economy, abortion, one party or split control of government, days getting political news from newspapers, tv, internet, talk radio, religious fundamentalist, southern identity)

2012 Survey (Better off, prefer political leaders to compromise, gay/lesbian marriage, people want to work or are lazy, Tea Party, Confederate Battle Flag on statehouse grounds, Obama a Muslim, view of Mormon religion, leadership qualities—strong vs helpful, abortion, cut deficits or stimulate economy, require private insurance to cover birth control for women, who to blame for economic problems, income tax cuts scheduled to end in 2013, proper role of government in health care, Social Security phase out, importance of a candidate’s religion, religious fundamentalist, southern identity, political influence of banks, elderly, blacks, Hispanics, atheists, corporations, unions, gays)

2014 Survey (Ebola outbreak, perceived economic change, prefer elected leaders to compromise, one cent sales tax for local school facilities, state gas tax for roads, people want work or are lazy, send troops to fight ISIS, Tea Party, gay/lesbian marriage, Confederate Battle Flag on statehouse grounds, prefer to live in diverse community, where most people share political views, where people share religious beliefs, expand Medicaid in SC with federal money, require private health care to cover birth control for women, Obama Muslim, abortions, religious fundamentalist, southern identity, which parts of ACA to keep or repeal, political power of corporations, blacks, Hispanics, unions, gays

2016 Survey (Better off, prefer elected leaders to compromise, gay/lesbian marriage, people want to work or are lazy, American life compared to 50 years ago, Confederate Battle Flag removed, free trade agreements, abortions, undocumented immigrants, income tax on wealthy, feelings on ACA, Social Security, Trump and women, religious fundamentalist, southern identity, political power of banks, elderly, blacks, Hispanics, whites, corporations, unions, gays)

2018 Survey (Trump job rating, better off, vote straight party, vote on one cent sales tax for county capital projects, increase property tax for schools, increase federal income tax for schools, political knowledge about per pupil spending in local schools, about percent of national budget on nonmilitary foreign aid, reverse discrimination, when decided for whom to vote in state house election, current religion, how long lived in AC/SC)