A new opinion poll shows Senator John Edwards in first place among Democrats who say they will vote in the South Carolina presidential primary next week.

The poll by the American Research Group puts Mr. Edwards ahead of Senator John Kerry, 21 to 17 percent.

Mr. Edwards, who represents neighboring North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, has indicated he needs to win in South Carolina to keep alive his hopes for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Black civil rights activist Al Sharpton is running third in South Carolina, with 15 percent of the vote. Mr. Sharpton has campaigned hard in South Carolina, the first state with a large African-American population to hold a primary this year.

South Carolina is one of seven states holding presidential primaries or caucuses on February third.

The others are Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

The American Research Group says its polls show Senator Kerry leading in Arizona, and retired General Wesley Clark on top in Oklahoma.

Some information for this report provided by AP.