By Jason Kreutner
Tuesday, November 6 was a special Learning Outside the Classroom day at University School of the Lowcountry. Students conducted exit polling for contested races in Charleston County, US House District #1, and US President. We chose twenty precincts across the county to get a broad sample, and the locations included Sullivan’s Island (Sunrise Presbyterian Church) and Isle of Palms (Isle of Palms Recreation Center). The main goal was to expose students to a wide array of voters, voting locations, and political perspectives, and this entailed each student engaging in exit polling at two precincts. Therefore, it is not a true representative sample, but our data was very accurate in comparison to the actual results. Our goal was to garner approximately 100 completed exit polls at each site, for a total of 2,000. Turnout was strong, and our efforts were affected by the weather and the long lines at certain precincts.
The students prepared for this event for weeks, learning about the candidates and the issues. This experience is an annual endeavor at University School of the Lowcountry because of the pattern of Congressional (and occasionally statewide and more) races in even-numbered years and municipal elections in odd-numbered years. The students have learned about the candidates, marketing, and the issues facing the community. They have also explored the value of exit polling in terms of statistics, sample size, location of precincts, turnout differences for different types of elections, and the diversity of voters they will encounter. Outside guest speakers also provided insight into the political process and other relevant issues. They included Julie Hussey (League of Women Voters – issues related to suffrage and an informed electorate), Larry Carter Center (Green Party), Bill Rogers (South Carolina Press Association – the importance of the free press), Eaddy Willard (Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics and Republican Party – SC is ranked 50th for women in elected office), Bakari Sellers (Democratic Party), and Keith Blandford (Libertarian Party). These are great lessons for preparing our students to be active and informed participants in their country.
For more information on this experience and the polling results, please see www.uslowcountry.org/exitpoll12.html.