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Didn't think barbecue was political?

MAY 4, 2003 - If you want proof that politics seeps into just about anything, consider barbecue, a staple at Republican and Democratic gatherings.

Former House Minority Leader Gilda Cobb Hunter, D-Orangeburg, prefers ketchup-based barbecue sauce. House Speaker Pro Tempore Doug Smith, R-Spartanburg, would rather eat the tangy mustard sauce popular in the Midlands. Meanwhile, Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, favors the taste of barbecue flavored with spicy vinegar.

A new poll called the S.C. Index found Republicans preferred mustard-based barbecue sauce by a 2-1 margin over ketchup-based sauce. Democrats picked ketchup-based sauce by 6 percentage points, according to the poll that will be offered bimonthly by three political consulting companies.

"I want to change my answer," SC Rep. Harry Ott, D-Calhoun, joked when he learned of the poll results. Earlier, he said he favored mustard-based sauce.

In general, the poll found 36 percent of South Carolinians preferred mustard-based barbecue sauce, compared to 25 percent who liked ketchup-based sauce and 16 percent -who chose a vinegar sauce for the port. Some 10 percent of South Carolinians said they didn't eat pork.

The pollsters said they didn't expect the results to have political overtones.

"All of us involved in putting this together like the vinegar sauce," said Skip Webb of Campaign Systems in Columbia. "We were a little shocked to discover we were in the bottom group!"

The statewide poll, which had a 4.9 percent margin of error, was administered April 14-15 by telephone to 400 registered voters. It revealed several other interesting political tidbits:

Education cuts. A majority of South Carolinians (52 percent) think proposed budget cuts will hurt public education. Only 16 percent said cuts would have no impact and 12 percent said they would help public education. One in five voters said they didn't know how cuts would affect education.

Confederate flag. South Carolinians remain divided over the Confederate flag, the SC Index said. Some 42 percent of voters said they favored the flag flying on the Statehouse grounds; 37 percent were opposed.

Views on the flag remain polarized by party and race. Three in five Democrats and 82 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Republicans oppose the flag on the Statehouse grounds. Just over half of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats support flying the flag near the Capitol. Only 4 percent of blacks do.

Direction. With the economy on many people's minds, the SC Index found almost half of those asked felt the state was headed in the right direction. One in four said the state had gotten off track. Some 29 percent said they weren't sure.

Sanford's rating. Gov. Mark Sanford has a 64 percent favorability rating, the SC Index said. Only 8 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable impression of his job performance; 21 percent were neutral. Interestingly, he got high marks from men and women, but fewer black voters (33 percent) gave him a high rating, compared to 74 percent of white voters.

By the way, Sanford spokesman Will Folks asked the governor which kind of sauce he liked.

"He said, 'whatever he can get his hands on,'" Folks reported.

And that, in and of itself, is politically interesting.


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