Politics & Government

SC wants background checks on gun sales, opposes outright abortion ban, new poll finds

This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) AP file photo

South Carolinians overwhelmingly favor background checks before gun purchases but oppose a restrictive abortion ban that has been proposed in the State House, according to the latest poll by Winthrop University.

Eighty percent of the survey’s respondents said they support passing a law to require a completed background check before a gun is sold. That includes 80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats surveyed.

That proposal — which has gained no traction in the S.C. State House — would close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used to kill nine people in a Charleston church in 2015.

Roof’s past criminal record could have kept him from purchasing the gun, but his background check wasn’t completed within the three-window allowed in S.C. law.

“Most firearm purchases need to have a background check anyway; everyone — Republicans, Democrats, or otherwise — seem to have no problem with ensuring that those checks are fully completed,” said Winthrop poll director Scott Huffmon.


A majority of South Carolinians also say women should be able to have an abortion in certain cases.

Seventy-three percent of S.C. residents says abortion should be legal if the mother’s health is threatened or the pregnancy isn’t viable. And 70 percent say a woman should be able to get an abortion if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

But just more than half — 52 percent — say it should be illegal for a women to get an abortion just because the pregnancy was unplanned or if she doesn’t feel capable of taking care of the child. Forty percent of South Carolinians said abortion should be allowed in those cases, too.

That question split respondents among party lines.

Among Republicans, 72 percent said abortion should be illegal in those cases, while 62 percent of Democrats support allowing abortion.

Religion was also an indicator of how respondents felt about the issue. Seventy percent of evangelicals and 79 percent of white evangelicals support an abortion ban in those circumstances, and 68 percent of those who attend church weekly the oppose abortion of unplanned pregnancies.

S.C. lawmakers have introduced a “personhood” bill that would ban almost all abortions. It would charge women who get abortions with murder, along with the doctors who perform them. A similar bill died late in last year’s legislative session after a lengthy filibuster by Senate Democrats.

“While a majority of South Carolina citizens favor some restrictions on abortions in the state, significant majorities still want legal abortions,” in some circumstances, Huffmon said. “These attitudes cut against so-called ‘personhood’ bills which would outlaw all abortion and even several kinds of birth control.”

Approval for top politicians?

The poll also shows that heading into his re-election bid next year, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is strengthening his position among Republican voters. While 49 percent of voters support the job Graham is doing as senator, 74 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Trump supporters approve of Graham versus 25 percent of Democrats who approve.

“Graham’s approval has benefited from his defense of, and alignment with, President Trump,” Huffmon said. “While Graham’s numbers used to lag those of other Republicans among GOP identifiers, since he has taken up the president’s banner on most every issue, his approval among Republicans in South Carolina has steadily risen.”

Gov. Henry McMaster has seen a similar effect. The Columbia Republican has the approval of 52 percent of all S.C. voters, but 73 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Trump supporters.

“His faithfulness to President Trump has paid off with more than seven in ten Trump supporters in S.C. also supporting Governor McMaster,” Huffmon said.

Thirty-four percent of Democrats approve of the governor, while 43 percent disapprove.

South Carolina’s other senator, Tim Scott, has a 55 percent approval rating in the state, and even Democrats are split on the North Charleston Republican’s performance — 39 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove.

The poll surveyed 1,007 residents of South Carolina between late February and early March, with a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Other findings

Other poll results include:

Donald Trump’s approval rating in South Carolina is 42 percent, versus 49 percent disapproval.

Among Republicans, 82 percent approve of Trump and 11 percent disapprove.

Among Democrats, 3 percent approve of Trump and 92 percent disapprove.

Congress’s approval rating is 16 percent to 72 percent disapproval.

The S.C. Legislature’s approval rating is 43 percent, versus 31 percent disapproval.

60 percent think the country is moving in the wrong direction, while 31 percent think it is on the right track

33 percent think the state of South Carolina is moving in the wrong direction, while 53 percent think it is on the right track

How is the country’s economy doing? 20 percent say very good; 56 percent say fairly good; 17 say fairly bad; 6 percent say very bad

How is South Carolina’s economy doing? 15 percent say very good, 60 percent say fairly good; 16 percent say fairly bad; 6 percent say very bad

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.