Gov. Nikki Haley still has a lower approval rating among her constituents than President Barack Obama, according to a Winthrop University poll of South Carolina residents.
48 percent of the poll’s respondents said they approve of the job President Obama is doing, compared to 38 percent who said they approve of Gov. Nikki Haley’s performance. That 10-point gap narrows when only the opinions of registered voters are considered, with a 43 percent approval rating for President Obama and a 41 percent rating for Gov. Haley.
The approval ratings of President Obama and Gov. Haley among South Carolinians both rose four points from this time last year. Most notable is the increase in Gov. Haley’s support among Republican-leaning voters, which rose by nine points since December 2011 to 61.5 percent.
That figure will be key as Gov. Haley decides whether to seek reelection in 2014, a decision she is expected to announce by next summer. With her statewide approval rating still hovering in the 30s, speculation has abounded regarding whether someone like Republican Treasurer Curtis Loftis will mount a primary campaign against the governor. If Gov. Haley is to ward off a potential GOP challenger, look for her to do everything she can to increase her support among the conservative base.
It’s worth noting that both Gov. Haley and President Obama are significantly more popular among South Carolinians than Congress, with just 13 percent of the poll’s respondents saying they approve of the job Congress is doing. About 40 percent of registered voters said they approve of the state legislature’s performance, with 33 percent disapproving and a quarter of respondents who were unsure.
Another notable statistic in the latest Winthrop Poll is the finding that a combined 42 percent of respondents listed the economy or jobs as the most important problem facing America. By contrast, just 15 percent of South Carolinians said the budget deficit or national debt is the biggest problem facing America.
This comparison is important because South Carolinians are loudly telling their leaders in no uncertain terms that economic recovery should take precedence over austerity measures designed to reduce the deficit. But as Palmetto Public Record reported on Tuesday, Sen. Jim DeMint is urging congressional Republicans to do the exact opposite by opposing a fiscal cliff compromise which includes revenue increases. So not only is DeMint putting the economy at risk to push his own agenda, but he’s going against the wishes of his constituents to do it.
The Winthrop Poll also found that support of the tea party among South Carolinians has dropped by three points over the past year to 29 percent. More important, however, is the sharp drop in tea party membership from the 2010 election to the present. While 31 percent of Republican-leaning voters consider themselves tea party members in 2010, that figure dropped to 11 percent in April. It dropped even further in the current Winthrop Poll, to nine percent — a full 22-point drop in tea party membership over the past two years.