What your S.C. barbecue sauce preference means in the state's presidential primary

Red Plates, Blue Plates

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Rodney Scott puts pepper vinegar on his whole hog barbecue from Hemingway, S.C. - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Rodney Scott puts pepper vinegar on his whole hog barbecue from Hemingway, S.C.

Long before any of us were picking pigs or presidents, barbecue and politics have been inextricably tied together. And taken separately, each carries its own heavy dose of controversy. A new South Carolina presidential primary poll finally puts some political numbers behind the state's mustard-tomato-vinegar barbecue sauce triumvirate.

Eastern North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling asked likely South Carolina primary voters over the weekend who they favored in the upcoming party contests as well as several baseline policy questions. When compared with candidate preference, questions about gay marriage, the Confederate flag, etc. can give an informative snapshot of the state's electorate as it stands right now. One of the questions in the phone poll was: "Do you prefer mustard, tomato, or vinegar based barbecue sauce?"

Of the 525 likely Democratic voter sample, 31 percent favored vinegar based sauce, while 28 percent prefer tomato, and 24 percent prefer mustard. About 18 percent of those polled weren't sure.

Among Republican primary voters, 31 percent prefer tomato based sauce, followed by 26 percent each for mustard and vinegar. Once again, an indecisive 17 percent of respondents weren't sure.

Neither group of primary voters preferred mustard sauce, the sticky yellow stuff that observers seem to associate first with South Carolina 'cue. Primary voters do tend to come from the ideological extremes though, represented here by vinegar on the left and tomato on the right. This lines up with voting trends in the conservative Upstate, where tomato-tinged sauce is popular, and the liberal Lowcountry, with a mixture of pepper-vinegar and mustard.

As far as candidates go, Ted Cruz supporters showed the strongest preference for mustard sauce at 34 percent. Supporters of Florida candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush both have a penchant for vinegar sauce, but Rubio supporters also showed the strongest preference for tomato. Supporters of Donald Trump, who led the poll overall, had a pretty even split, leaning tomato. Ben Carson had the most unsure supporters, which sounds about right.

On the Democratic side, 55 percent of those polled preferred Hillary Clinton and they were almost evenly-split with a slight tomato preference. About 34 percent of voters are supporting Bernie Sanders and the largest group of them (35 percent) prefer vinegar sauce. Undecided primary voters who say they'll vote Democratic say they prefer vinegar, but with just 17 percent of self-identified liberal voters statewide indicating they're undecided, that could mean there are plenty of conservative Democratic voters in areas where vinegar sauce is popular who have not made up their minds.

Republican voters head to the polls for their primary this Saturday (2/20), it's the Democrats' turn next week (2/27).

For the full results, click over to publicpolicypolling.com.


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