PPP’s new South Carolina poll finds that Tim Scott has quickly become the state’s most popular politician- and is already one of the most popular Senators in the country in their home state. 50% of voters approve of the job Scott is doing to only 23% who disapprove. 72% of Republicans approve of the job he’s doing, while only 45% of Democrats disapprove. That bucks the trend we see with most major politicians these days where they’re as unpopular with the other party as they are popular with their own.
Scott’s not on anyone’s list of vulnerable Senators up for reelection next year, and our polling reinforces that he shouldn’t be. In extremely hypothetical match ups with former Governor Jim Hodges (54/32), 2014 Lieutenant Governor candidate Bakari Sellers (56/28), and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott (55/27) Scott leads by anywhere from 22 to 28 points.
Nikki Haley’s approval comes in at 51/38, the highest numbers we’ve found for her since she took office. Voters are strongly opposed to her plan to raise the gas tax though. Just 20% support it to 69% who are opposed and even among Republican voters there’s 19/71 opposition. When you couch the gas tax increase as solely being to repair roads, support still rises to only 32% with 55% opposed.
South Carolina may be a GOP state but on the issue of how to pay for road repairs voters are siding with the Democrats. By a 50/36 spread they support casinos in the state, and asked whether they’d rather road repairs were paid for by opening casinos or increasing the gas tax voters pick casinos by a 58/26 margin. There’s a bipartisan consensus for casinos over the gas tax with Democrats (63/22), independents (58/28), and Republicans (53/28) all strongly preferring it.
We find South Carolina voters taking a more moderate stance on a few other key issues right now as well. There is 76/14 support for a law preventing domestic abusers from buying guns and 64/24 support for one making those people turn in any guns they currently own. In addition to overwhelming support from Democrats and independents, majorities of Republicans (71/17 and 54/31 respectively) support each of those measures as well. There’s also a strong consensus among voters in the state (61/27) that guns should not be allowed on college campuses.
South Carolinians are also dealing pretty well with the legalization of gay marriage in the state. Only 31% claim its being legal has had a negative impact on their lives with 9% saying it’s had a positive impact and 60% saying it’s had none at all. This is consistent with what we’re finding even in states that at one time voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage in their constitutions- once it becomes legal few voters are finding it to be much of a burden on their lives. Even among Republicans 61% grant that gay marriage being legal has not negatively impacted them.
One issue where South Carolinians remain conservative though is flying the Confederate flag on the state capital grounds. 50% of voters support continuing to keep the flag there, while 40% are opposed. The support for flying the flag comes despite 48% of voters granting that the flag is bad for the state’s image, compared to only 35% who think it makes the state look good. By a 52/28 spread Republicans dissent from the prevailing view in the state and say they think flying the flag is a positive for how people nationally view South Carolina.
Finally we asked voters in the state how they feel about some of the state’s former major politicians, and the takeaway is how quickly people are forgotten. Jim DeMint left the Senate just two years ago but already a third of voters in the state say they have no opinion about him, compared to 37% who see him favorably and 30% unfavorably. 10 years after he left the Senate a majority of voters in the state- 53%- say they have no opinion about Fritz Hollings one way or the other. 27% see him favorably and 20% unfavorably. And even Strom Thurmond despite serving in the Senate for decades and being a prominent national figure already has 31% of voters with no opinion about him. Those who do have one give him a 41/28 favorability rating.
Full results here