Heading into the holidays, South Carolina residents are more optimistic about the economy than they were in April or a year ago, according to a new Winthrop Poll released Wednesday.
Nearly 57 percent of the 852 S.C. adults surveyed between Nov. 9-16 said they would spend about the same as they did last year. One in 6 said they would spend more while only 1 in 4 said they would spend less.
Nearly 68 percent of respondents said the state’s economy is getting better, up 10 percentage points from April and up about 20 percentage points from an October 2013 poll.
Asked to rate their own financial situations, 10 percent said their situations were excellent, while 45 percent said they were in good shape financially. That is up from a year ago, when 6 percent saw their financial situations as excellent, and 40 percent said their outlook was good.
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Sixty percent of S.C. residents are optimistic their financial situations are improving, holding steady from last April. That is about 10 percentage points higher than a year ago, and 20 points higher than in late 2011.
Unlike the Winthrop poll taken before the Nov. 4 election, which surveyed likely voters, the Winthrop poll released Wednesday gauged the general population’s opinions on a variety of issues, including the economy and personal finances.
According to the poll, South Carolinians mostly agree that Palmetto State women face discrimination, but split when asked a different question about the impact of similar forces on black people.
While 78 percent of blacks say slavery and discrimination make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class, only 33 percent of whites agreed, according to a poll.
Overall, 50 percent of the South Carolinians polled said they somewhat or strongly do not believe that bias has been harmful, while 45 percent disagreed.
However, 60 percent said women face a lot or some discrimination, 27 percent said they face “a little” and 10 percent said they face none.
Following that trend, more than half of S.C. residents say women have worse job opportunities than men. And 54 percent of all respondents – including half of men – said feminists are seeking equality, while 32 percent said they want special treatment.
The poll does not ask the same questions about women and blacks, noted Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon.
But the attitudes expressed toward women and blacks do diverge. One explanation, he said, is, “The racial question is far more politically charged in South Carolina, and people are far more likely to default to their ideology than their (personal) experience” when answering that question.
Of those who answered that women face discrimination, it is likely that “many of them have heard a wife, a mother, a sister say, ‘Maybe it’s not the norm, but I have experienced some discrimination,’ ” Huffmon said. “It’s not that they have less empathy” for blacks than they do for women.
The poll respondents also were largely conservative, Huffmon added, pointing to their higher approval ratings for the national Republican Party versus the Democratic Party, and positive attitudes toward Republican elected officials.
The poll also found most South Carolinians – 3 out of 4 – would support a state law requiring women to be paid the same as men for doing the same job, while still allowing for different pay based on seniority or job performance.
Huffmon said that does not mean South Carolina has grown more liberal – approving of “equal pay” proposals usually pushed by Democrats.
The key lies in part of the question allowing for performance and seniority to factor into pay – that language “makes it absolutely clear that the people who are doing a better job are going to get paid more.”
Without that language, the “equal pay” proposal would seem like “it’s all about regulating the business.”
Even in a conservative view of limited government and free market capitalism, the government has a role to play to ensure “nobody cheats” and everyone starts on an equal playing field, Huffmon said.