COLUMBIA — Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has a strong backing for reelection next year among GOP voters, while U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will need to convince people in his party to give him another term, according to a new Clemson University poll.
Haley received favorable marks from 70 percent of 500 Republican voters who participated in two of the past three GOP primaries. Just 18 percent said they did not like the former Lexington lawmaker.
Graham, who is facing competition from the libertarian wing of the party in the June primary, was liked by 53 percent of those polled. More than one-third of GOP voters had an unfavorable opinion of the Seneca Republican.
Republican primaries regularly attract about 20 percent of the registered voters, and they are more conservative and more ideological than voters in the general election, Clemson political scientist Dave Woodard. It often happens that popular incumbents are derailed on the way to re-election by upstart challengers in GOP primaries.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a former congressman from North Charleston appointed to the seat this year, received a 69 percent favorable from GOP voters.
Almost half of those polled said they would vote for Haley next year no matter who ran against her. No Republican has announced plans to challenge the governor in the primary. She is expected to meet State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, in a rematch of their 2010 race.
Graham, however, would get the votes of 31 percent of GOP voters regardless of his primary opponent. Nearly 20 percent of Republicans said they would not vote for Graham. That number was 13 percent for Haley.
GOP voters told the Clemson poll they disliked Graham for: his perceived lack of conservative principles; association with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; and tendency to compromise too much with Democrats.
They also criticized Graham for supporting President Barack Obama's proposal to used limited military force in Syria. The poll found two-thirds of Republican voters oppose military action in Syria.
Most incumbents have a re-elect regardless number in the 30s, so the governors numbers are quite strong, Woodard said. That cannot be said about Graham, his numbers show that more than two-thirds of the base GOP voters are unhappy with him.
Clemson polled GOP voters last week through Monday. The survey had a margin of error plus or minus 5 percent.