A new poll released in the U.S. state of South Carolina shows Senator's John Kerry and John Edwards essentially tied for first place ahead of next Tuesday's Democratic Party primary in the state. African-Americans are expected to play a deciding role in who wins the first primary to held in a southern state.
The poll, conducted by Zogby International shows North Carolina Senator John Edwards with 25 percent of the Democratic Party vote, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry with 24 percent.
Behind Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, are undecided voters, who make up 22 percent of the vote.
The poll was based on questioning of 600 likely primary voters. The poll has a four percent margin of error, putting both men in a statistical tie for first place.
In a new development, the poll shows former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ahead of retired General Wesley Clark and civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Earlier polls had put Mr. Sharpton in third place.
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich trail the other candidates.
African-Americans, who make up 30 percent of South Carolina's population, are expected to be a majority of Democratic Party voters on Tuesday.
Joseph Darby, the pastor of the Morris Brown AME Church, in Charleston, one of the largest Black churches in the state, says many African-Americans are undecided about who to support.
"I would say it [the black vote] is very much up for grabs," he said. "You have a number of candidates with a similar message who are accustomed to making an appeal to the same constituency. So, I expect that there will be some division in the African-American vote. It will not be monolithic."
Mr. Darby and other African-American leaders say unemployment is the biggest concern in the Black community followed by concerns over the cost and availability of health care insurance. Polls indicate those concerns are also shared by white South Carolinians of both political parties.