The gap separating Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and her Democratic opponent in November, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, is narrow, according to a Democratic-leaning poll.
Haley leads Sheheen 49-46 percent, according to the survey of 698 S.C. registered voters. Those figures include “strong” and “weak” supporters, who could change their minds.
The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, which could mean Haley’s lead actually is larger or Sheheen could be narrowly ahead.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the S.C. Democratic Party.
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“Despite being outspent 10-1, Vincent Sheheen is viable, and Nikki Haley is very vulnerable,” said Kristin Sosanie, spokesperson for the Democratic Party.
Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said the poll was a ploy for campaign donations for Sheheen.
“It's amusing that the Democratic Party is trying to concoct a phony ‘poll’ to help Vince's fundraising at the end of the quarter,” Godfrey said. “It's not worth the paper it's printed on.”
A Republican-leaning poll released in April, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research for Rasmussen Reports, found Haley had a double-digit lead over Sheheen. In that poll, 52 percent of those surveyed favored Haley and 37 percent favored Sheheen.
Haley and Sheheen of Camden ran against each other in the November 2010 governor’s race with the Lexington Republican winning by 4.5 percentage points.
The Public Policy Polling poll, released Wednesday, hinted at two themes Democrats may use in the fall to try to oust Haley — her refusal to expand Medicaid in the state and recent GOP scandals.
“Does Nikki Haley’s refusal to accept our tax dollars for purely political reasons give you major concerns, some concerns or no concerns at all about her?” the poll asked voters.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they had “major” or “some” concerns.
Another question stated Republicans have been in complete control of South Carolina’s state government for more than a decade and referred to the indictment of Republican Lexington County Sheriff James Metts, ethics allegations against Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell and “Nikki Haley’s continuing ethical questions.”
“Do you believe the Republican Party has been given too much power and that has led to its elected representatives becoming increasingly corrupt?” Public Policy Polling asked the S.C. voters.
About 41 percent strongly agreed the GOP is becoming corrupt, while 14 percent somewhat agreed.
“One of the things we wanted to know was to understand a little bit more about the public feelings about the many scandals and the failure of ethics that we’ve seen from the leadership in this state,” Sosanie said.
After asking those loaded questions, the poll re-asked the voters surveyed which candidate they would choose for governor.
This time, Sheheen was favored by 48 percent to 45 percent for Haley.
“What that shows is that the corruption issue and the Medicaid issue are the sorts of things that have the potential to move voters,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.