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CNN Today

Gallup Poll: Voter Turnout is Key in South Carolina Primaries

Aired February 18, 2000 - 1:02 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: And as Lou mentioned, support for Bush has grown in the latest CNN/"USA Today" Gallup Poll, and the battle for the title of reformer may be the reason.

Frank Newport is dutifully at his post at the Gallup station in Princeton, and he joins us with all the facts and figures.

Hi, Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Hi, Andria.

As Lou just mentioned, in South Carolina the rules allow Democrats and Independents to vote if they want to in the Republican primary tomorrow, and that's what makes it so fascinating for us who that are studying it but also makes it real dicey to try to figure out what's going to happen tomorrow.

Now, in terms of our latest estimate of what's happening, we polled last weekend and we polled Wednesday and Thursday night of this week. Last weekend, Bush was ahead by seven. Last night, he increased that lead slightly over the last couple of days; 52 to 40 was our latest estimate as of last evening.

But let's show you where that's coming from. About 60 percent of our sample is composed of Republicans, and we're estimating that about 40 percent of the vote on Saturday -- that's an estimate -- will be Independents and Democrats, and there's big, big differences in their voting preferences. Over on the left, there are hard-core Republicans in South Carolina, and they're very strongly in Bush's camp, as you can see. These are Independents, and, as you can see, they're the mirror image. They're much more likely to say they would vote for McCain, as is the case for Democrats.

So, turnout is really the key for these differential groups that I think everybody's been saying now, and you can see why. If a lot of Democrats and Independents show up tomorrow to vote, then McCain has a good chance of winning. If, as our current estimate shows, the Republicans keep it at that 60-percent level and the vote preferences are like this, then Bush looks like he could come away with the victory. That's, of course, what we'll be watching so intensely tomorrow as the vote starts.

Now, a couple of other things we can show you. Those negative ads have really been an issue in South Carolina. McCain made it an issue, Bush is still using some negative campaigning. We asked Americans -- not Americans, South Carolinians in our latest poll: Is Bush attacking McCain unfairly. Thirty-five percent yes, but the same said that McCain was attacking Bush unfairly, so we really don't see that this negative campaign has paid off for either candidate, it's about a wash.

One thing we do know is there was a big debate last Tuesday night, and about half of the voters in South Carolina watched it on "LARRY KING LIVE" on CNN and some other stations. McCain did not, it looks, like use that opportunity to really shine. In fact, Alan Keyes, who only gets four percent of the vote, is the winner according to the debate watchers, McCain by only 19 percent and then George Bush came in above McCain.

So again, turnout's the key. It should be fascinating to see what happens tomorrow in South Carolina.

Back to you, Andria.

HALL: Thank you, Frank.

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