ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – South Carolina residents remain among the strongest supporters of President Donald Trump as his approval rating in the Palmetto State stands at 42%, according to the latest Winthrop Poll.
The president’s approval numbers here continue to be a few points higher than the national average of 39% as measured March 10 by Gallup. The 45th president has a disapproval rating of 49% among Palmetto State citizens.
Earlier Winthrop Polls over the past year have showed similar approval ratings. Trump has strong support within his own party in South Carolina; the president has support from 82% of residents who identify GOP or lean Republican. White Evangelicals particularly support the president.
Meanwhile, 9 of every 10 S.C. residents who identify with the Democratic Party disapprove of Trump.
A large majority of South Carolina residents also disapprove of Congress. Only 16% of South Carolina residents approve of the way federal lawmakers are handling their job. According to Winthrop Poll Director, Dr. Scott Huffmon, “Obviously, a more conservative state like South Carolina sees President Trump more positively than his overall national numbers, but the President remains extremely polarizing in South Carolina among partisan identifiers and leaners.”
LINDSEY GRAHAM, SC GOVERNOR HENRY MCMASTER AND OTHERS
Almost half of S.C. residents approve of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. As South Carolina’s senior senator has become closer with Trump, his approval rating among Republicans has risen greatly. His approval among Republicans, and those who lean Republican, stands at 74%, while only 1/4 of Democrats support Graham. According to Huffmon, “Graham’s approval has benefited from his defense of, and alignment with, President Trump. While Graham’s numbers used to lag those of other Republicans among GOP identifiers, since he has taken up the President’s banner on most every issue, his approval among Republicans in South Carolina has steadily risen.”
The state’s junior senator, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott continues to be highly rated among the Republican base. He has a strong 74% approval rating among the GOP (including Leaners). Scott’s popularity among the general public remains high as well, with 55% reporting approval of the job he is doing. Huffmon notes, “While Graham’s approval still hews to partisan expectations, Senator Scott has found himself in a position of being equally popular as Graham among Republicans, but less lopsided – in fact, roughly equal – among Democrats. While still appealing to core Republicans, Senator Scott has pushed issues that even many Democrats appreciate.”
S.C. Governor Henry McMaster’s approval rating in South Carolina stands at 52% which has gone up since he won election in November. Nearly 3/4 of GOP residents, particularly those who also support Trump, back the former lieutenant governor. Democrats aren’t as charitable, with only 34% giving McMaster a positive nod. According to Huffmon, “Governor McMaster is not only ‘above water’ – meaning his approval is higher than his disapproval -, but his overall approval among South Carolinians is over 50%. Further, his faithfulness to President Trump has paid off with more than seven in ten Trump supporters in SC also supporting Governor McMaster.”
The S.C. General Assembly got an approval nod from 43% of those polled while 31% disapprove of the job they’re doing. With a huge windfall of revenues, South Carolina residents will be watching this spring to see how lawmakers handle several important issues, including education and teacher raises.
ECONOMY AND STATE GOVERNMENT
Nearly 60% of Winthrop Poll respondents said our country is headed in the wrong direction. Yet two thirds of South Carolina residents said our country’s economy is very good or fairly good. More than half (53%) think South Carolina is moving in a positive direction, while ¾ of residents think the condition of the state’s economy is either very or fairly good.
A majority of S.C. residents are optimistic about the future and their own finances: they are confident that our country and the state’s economic conditions are getting better. Nearly 60% described their own financial situation as good or excellent, and a significant number reported their personal finances were getting better.
S.C. residents said the most important problem facing our country is immigration, followed by politicians/government, Donald Trump and racism. Those surveyed said the most important issues facing the Palmetto State are education, roads/bridges/infrastructure, jobs or unemployment, and racism.
GUN OWNERSHIP AND ABORTION
Concerning background checks for those making gun purchases, 80% of those surveyed said they would support legislation that would require a completed background check before a person is sold a gun. Currently, when a person buys a firearm, if the background check takes longer than three days, the buyer can receive the gun if the seller agrees.
This loophole came to the forefront with a gun sale for Dylann Roof, the convicted shooter in the 2015in Charleston, South Carolina, who shot at 12 victims, killing nine of them.
Both GOP and Democrats supported legislation similarly on this issue. Dr. Huffmon notes, “Most firearm purchases need to have a background check anyway; everyone – Republicans, Democrats, or otherwise, – seem to have no problem with ensuring that those checks are fully completed. Such a measure ensures law abiding citizens can still buy guns while there is an extra check on people like the Charleston murderer, who I won’t name, getting a firearm.”
With abortion, a majority of South Carolinians surveyed said they favor at least some restrictions on abortions. However, strong majorities believe that some circumstances, such as the health of mother, the viability of fetus, or rape and incest, do warrant legal abortions.
Dr. Huffmon states, “While a majority of South Carolina citizens favor some restrictions on abortions in the state, significant majorities still want legal abortions for those whose health is threatened, are carrying a non-viable fetus, or are pregnant as the result of rape or incest. This data shows that South Carolinians are NOT fans of abortion, but recognize certain circumstances when legal abortion may be appropriate. These attitudes cut against so-called ‘personhood’ bills which would outlaw ALL abortion and even several kinds of birth control.”
S.C. residents were torn about what to do with the extra fertilized eggs for women who are trying to get pregnant. Twenty percent said dispose of the eggs, 33% said to use them for research, 11% said to freeze the eggs indefinitely, while 21% said some other option was more desirable such as donating the eggs to an infertile couple.
For this latest Winthrop Poll, callers surveyed 1007 adult residents in South Carolina by landline and cell phone in late February and March. All Respondents have a margin of error of approximately +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level. Any subset will have a larger margin of error. Margins of error are based on unweighted sample size and account for design effects.
POLL FUNDING AND CONTACT INFORMATION
The Winthrop Poll is funded by Winthrop University. For additional information, or to set up an interview with Poll Director Scott Huffmon, please contact Judy Longshaw at or 803-323-2404 (office) or 803-984-0586 (cell).
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