Poll: Slight majority of S.C. voters give Trump a thumbs down

A large majority of S.C. Republicans stand behind new President Donald Trump.

But, drill down deeper and it appears that Trump maybe is not so popular.

According to a new Winthrop Poll released Thursday, 47 percent of South Carolinians disapprove of Trump versus 44 percent who approve of his job just five weeks into his presidency.

For this latest statewide Winthrop Poll, conducted by Winthrop University, callers surveyed 703 South Carolina residents by landline and cell phones between Feb. 12-21. The poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percent, said chief pollster Scott Huffmon.

While 77 percent of GOP voters, including those that “lean” Republican, think Trump is doing well, the overall poll results belie Trump’s earlier popularity in the state when he bested Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 14 percentage points in the November 2016 general election.

In that election, Clinton managed to win just 15 of the state’s 46 counties – winning Richland County by 33 points, but losing solid-red Lexington County by nearly 37 points.

The new poll results indicate that South Carolinians generally support Trump by a greater percentage than in national polls, but give the president’s foes in the state hope that his popularity is waning amid a tumultuous beginning to his presidency.

“To me this is some validation that even his supporters are beginning to realize what a joke he is,” said Richland County Democratic voter Mariss Gleason. “He’s setting us up for four years of failure and scandal, and maybe all but his most ardent sycophants are beginning to wake up to that.”

Staunch Lexington County Republican voter Martin Perrine, who voted for Trump “reluctantly,” said he wants to see Trump succeed, but expressed no shock at the poll results.

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“I hope our president can get it together,” he said. “But, let’s face it, he’s had a pretty crappy roll-out so far. Any Republican who says they’re happy with the results so far is delusional, as far as I’m concerned.”

Others were not so sanguine. Jordy Hartwell, a Richland County Republican who made the trek last week to hear Trump speak in North Charleston, said, “he’s doing exactly what he said he’d do. And God bless him. Thanks to him, we’re taking our country back.”

In the poll, respondents were given a range of adjectives to describe Trump, the results of which “reflect a wide spectrum,” pollsters said. Among the findings:

— More than three-quarters of South Carolina Republicans said they are proud of the president, said he’s confident, and stands up for people like them

— More than four-fifths of African-Americans in the state said the word “safe” inaccurately described how Trump made them feel. Nearly 80 percent of them disapprove of how Trump is handling his job.

— Only 39 percent of residents describe Trump as “thoughtful”

The poll not only focused on Trump.

New S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s approval rating in South Carolina is 44 percent, according to the poll, but more than a one-third of residents said that they don’t know whether they approve or disapprove of him.

McMaster’s approval rating is 28 points higher than his disapproval rating. Elected as the lieutenant governor, McMaster took over as governor on January 24 after Trump nominated former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to be the United Nations ambassador.

Meanwhile, the poll said, Congress received a stamp of approval from one-quarter of respondents and the S.C. General Assembly got a nod from 45 percent of those polled. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent Trump critic, garnered a 46 percent disapproval rating. The state’s junior senator, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who is more highly rated among the Republican base, received a 55 percent approval rating among the general population.

When asked on a scale from 0 (“cool”) to 100 (“warm”) how they felt about people, movements or symbols, respondents’ average “feeling thermometer” scores were:

• Donald Trump, 48
• Barack Obama, 61
• Muslims, 59
• Hispanics, 71
• Refugees coming to America from other countries, 51
• Whites or Caucasians, 75
• Blacks or African Americans, 78
• The Confederate flag, 41
• The police, 74
• Black Lives Matter movement, 48

Meantime, on the economy, more than half of South Carolina residents (59 percent) said the country’s economy is very good or fairly good, and a majority believe this country’s conditions as a whole are getting better. Two out of three residents think South Carolina is moving in a positive direction, and 70 percent think the condition of the state’s economy is either very or fairly good.

Nearly 60 percent described their own financial situation as good or excellent.

S.C. residents said immigration is the most important problem facing the United States, followed by the economy, racism, Donald Trump, and political division. Those surveyed said the most important issues facing the Palmetto State are roads, bridges and infrastructure, jobs or unemployment, education, economy, and racism.

On racial issues, half of black respondents said their race contributes to their personal identity. About 40 percent rated the country’s race relations as poor, while 57 percent of whites rated it as either good or only fair. In the Palmetto State, things were a bit better as 37 percent rated relations as poor, while three-fourths of whites rated it as excellent, good or only fair.

Fewer than half of black residents (49 percent) said they were discriminated in the year because of their race or ethnicity, while only 24 percent of white residents felt the same way. A majority of both groups, particularly blacks (92 percent) feel that it is important for people of their race to work together to change laws that are unfair to their race or ethnicity. Sixty percent of blacks said they felt ignored on certain issues because of their race.

The Winthrop Poll looked at a series of other issues that Palmetto State residents may be concerned about:

· Four of out of five residents favored making it a crime to post online or share sexually explicit pictures without the expressed consent of those in the pictures.

· Eighty-one percent of respondents favored requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees unless the employer could demonstrate that the accommodation imposed an undue hardship on the business.

· Nearly 70 percent favored requiring schools to base their curriculum on reproductive health solely on evidence-based research.

· Sixty-three percent favored an amendment to the S.C. Constitution to create an Independent Reapportionment Commission that would be in charge of redrawing lines when the population changes.

· More than 80 percent approved of the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the young man who entered the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and shot ten members who were gathered for Bible study in June 2015. Nine of them died. Roof received the death penalty in January.

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