- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - For years, South Carolina has been a reliably red state with Republicans holding the top political offices. Results from exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks on Tuesday in the state show the trend will continue.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott won their respective races by attracting a lion’s share of the traditional party base. They included voters who identified themselves as conservative, Tea Party supporters as well as those who say, “Things in this country today are seriously off on the wrong track.”

Here are some of the highlights from exit poll interviews:

HALEY’S SUPPORT: Haley did her best among white evangelicals and tea party supporters as well as voters with “negative” feelings about President Barack Obama’s administration. Haley fared best among older voters, capturing 63 percent of that group compared with 46 percent among younger voters. She also garnered broad support among those who said the economy is the most pressing national issue. Haley frequently touted the number of jobs created on her watch and a state unemployment rate that’s fallen from 10.5 percent when she took office to 6.4 percent last month. But her opponent Democrat Vincent Sheheen has criticized her numbers as not real. Sheheen reminded voters of problems in Haley’s administration, including the 2012 cyber-theft of 6.4 million residents’ and businesses’ personal data from tax returns. Sheehan drew strong support from voters who identified themselves as moderate or liberal.

GRAHAM’S STRENGTH: The longtime Republican incumbent did best among whites, tea party supporters and those opposing same-sex marriage and the federal health-care reform law. He has made his foreign policy experience central to his campaign. Graham has criticized President Barack Obama for not doing enough to stop the spread of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. He carried majorities of those who approve of the U.S. military action against the Islamic State group as well as those who disapprove. Graham, though, had to beat back a challenge from Tea Party candidates in the primary who said he wasn’t conservative enough for this heavily conservative state.

SCOTT’S SUPPORT: Seeking to finish the final two years of conservative Sen. Jim DeMint’s term, Scott did best among white evangelicals and voters who identified themselves as conservative. But Scott, who is the first African-American senator in the Deep South since Reconstruction, only landed about 10 percent of black voters. His opponent, Democrat Joyce Dickerson, fared well with liberal and moderate voters, and did better among black women (91 percent) than black men (83 percent).

TOP ISSUES: The economy was the top issue for 45 percent of voters, followed by health care, cited by 22 percent, and illegal immigration at 16 percent. Just 13 percent called foreign policy the top issue facing the country.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Nearly two-thirds of South Carolina voters are opposed to legal recognition of same-sex marriages. The issue has been contentious in this conservative state. In early October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia. South Carolina is the only one in the Fourth U.S. Circuit refusing to allow gay marriage.

HEALTH CARE: Over half of the voters say they think the federal health care reform law goes too far. Sheheen supporters thought it should go further or was about right, while Haley backers considered it an overreach, both by wide margins.

OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST OBAMA: About six in 10 South Carolina voters said they were dissatisfied or angry about the Obama administration. Slightly fewer, 55 percent, felt that way about Republican leaders in Congress.

MARGIN OF ERROR: The exit poll of 1,801 South Carolina voters was conducted for The AP and television networks by Edison Research in a random sample of 27 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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