A majority of South Carolinians oppose drilling for oil off the S.C. coast, a new poll finds.
The poll by Winthrop University found that 51 percent of South Carolinians surveyed oppose offshore drilling. Forty-one percent favored drilling.
The poll found support for drilling varied radically between self-identified Democrats – 71 percent opposed and 24 percent favoring – and self-identified Republicans – 63 percent favoring and 30 percent opposed.
In South Carolina’s six coastal counties – Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper – 54 percent of residents oppose drilling, while 37 percent said they would support the idea.
The majority of S.C. Republicans split with GOP Gov. Henry McMaster, who opposes offshore drilling, on the issue.
McMaster has said drilling off the S.C. coast would threaten the environment and the state’s tourism economy. The governor has asked his allies in the Trump administration, which has proposed opening the Atlantic coast to drilling, to exempt South Carolina from the planned changes.
Plans for drilling off the coast also have drawn opposition from coastal communities and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, who spoke about the effects that drilling would have on his coastal district at a rally at the S.C. State House on Feb. 13.
However, the drilling issue may not hurt McMaster with Republican voters, who hold their primary in June.
Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, one of McMaster’s leading primary opponents, also opposes drilling. But Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson – who has said he favors searching for oil but hasn’t decided whether he supports drilling – could pick up GOP support on the issue.
Among other findings in the Winthrop Poll:
▪ A quarter of South Carolinians say they don’t know what to think of Gov. McMaster.
Twenty-five percent expressed no opinion of the governor, roughly even with his disapproval rating. Forty-seven percent said they approve of the job that McMaster is doing as governor.
The poll’s findings match similar earlier results for McMaster, who became governor in January 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to join the Trump administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster faces an election fight later this year, starting with a contested June GOP primary.
“Gov. McMaster’s approval numbers are nearly double his disapproval numbers, so he definitely is ‘above water,’ ” said Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon. “But having one quarter of respondents not feeling they can evaluate his performance means he must get out in front of the average resident and put his stamp on the office.”
▪ President Donald Trump’s unpopularity increased in South Carolina from the same poll conducted last year.
Fifty percent of South Carolinians told pollsters they disapprove of how Trump is handling the job of president, up from 47 percent last spring. Trump’s approval rating in the Palmetto State held steady at 42 percent, higher than the national average. Trump’s approval rating among S.C. Republicans remains solid, at 81 percent.
▪ South Carolina’s senior senator also has fallen in the poll.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, has a disapproval rating of 48 percent, with 38 percent approving. Last year, feelings on Graham were split evenly. Among Republicans, 51 percent disapprove of Graham’s performance, while 41 percent approve. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, has a 53 percent approval rate among the general public and 75 percent among Republicans.
▪ The poll, conducted a week after a Florida high school shooting, found gun control rated as the top national issue, with 9.7 percent saying it is the top issue facing the country today.
Roads, bridges and infrastructure were rated as South Carolina’s most pressing issue by 14 percent of respondents.
▪ Most South Carolinians want a new way to draw election districts in the state.
Sixty-eight percent say they would support an independent, bipartisan commission drawing lines for congressional and State House elections. Now, members of the GOP-controlled S.C. Legislature draw the lines.
▪ A large majority want to see so-called “Dreamers” – young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children – allowed to stay in the country with a chance to become citizens. Eighty-eight percent of respondents support the Dreamers staying, including 94 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans. Only 12 percent said they wanted them deported, including 4 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans.
▪ Three out of four South Carolinians believe climate change really is happening.
In all, 76 percent said climate change is real, while 21 percent don’t believe in it. Broken down along party lines, 57 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats believe in climate change, while 39 percent and 6 percent of each party deny it, respectively.
The poll surveyed 976 South Carolinians by phone between Feb. 17 and Feb. 25. It has a margin of error of about plus or minus 3 percentage points.
63%of Republicans support offshore drilling, versus 51 percent of all state residents who oppose it
50%disapprove of President Donald Trump, versus 42 percent who approve of the president
25% of voters have no opinion of Gov. Henry McMaster, running for election later this year
61% think the country is heading in the wrong direction; 33 percent see it moving in the right direction
49% think South Carolina is headed in the right direction; 39 percent say it’s headed in the wrong direction
11%approve of the job Congress is doing, versus 78 percent who disapprove
42%approve of the S.C. Legislature, versus 35 percent who disapprove and 21 percent are unsure