South Carolina Exit Polls Show How Bush Won

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - Texas Governor George W Bush's double-digit win in South Carolina Saturday was the result of a huge voter turnout, in which Bush held on to the traditional base of the Republican Party, according to exit polls.

With an estimated 600,000 South Carolina voters going to the polls - more than double the 276,000 in 1996 - Bush took 68 percent of the registered Republicans, while Arizona Sen. John McCain lagged far behind at 20 percent.

Among the 30 percent who said they were voting for the first time, 61 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Independents and only nine percent said they were Democrats. In the final days of the contest, Bush repeatedly insisted he would win if the number of independents and Democrats did not exceed 40 percent.

In the favorable-unfavorable category, 73 percent of the voters gave Bush a favorable rating, versus 26 percent who saw him as unfavorable. McCain was seen as favorable by 67 percent and unfavorable by 30 percent. McCain's unfavorable rating was double the number in New Hampshire, and may have been due to negative ads he ran and negative ads Bush ran against him.

Asked which of the two candidates ran more unfair attack spots, 44 percent of the voters gave the nod to McCain and 37 percent to Bush. McCain's ad problem seemed to stem from the spot he ran against Bush, in which he likened the Texan to President Clinton, a contention Bush repeatedly used against the senator.

Asked what was more important, the candidate's position on issues or their personal qualities, 56 percent said personal qualities, while 41 percent sited issues.

When asked what was more important, saving social security or offering tax cuts, 52 percent gave the nod to saving Social Security, a McCain priority, while 42 percent said cut taxes. While Bush favored lowering the marginal tax rates for everyone, McCain said he would target tax cuts to lower and middle income workers.

Questioned about abortion, 61 percent supported Bush, while 33 percent supported McCain's position. Both insisted they are pro-life.

Asked whether Bush possesses the knowledge to be President, 76 percent said yes, while 22 percent said no.

Asked which of the two was more reform oriented, 61 percent said Bush, despite McCain's long time contention that he is the reform candidate. Following McCain's New Hampshire win, Bush played down his compassionate conservative theme, in favor of characterizing himself as "the reformer with results."

McCain and Bush split the veteran's vote, at 47 percent each.

When asked whose values they most admired, 55 percent gave the nod to Bush, while 36 percent favored McCain.

And asked who has the best chance of winning the general election, 57 percent said Bush and 38 percent responded McCain.