South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will find as much good news as bad in a new Winthrop Poll that shows she has an approval rating of almost 60 percent among Republican and Republican-leaning independents.
Asked how they think Haley is performing as governor, about 37.3 percent of the South Carolina adults polled said they approve, while 36.5 percent said they do not.
Winthrop University political science professor Scott Huffmon, who oversaw the polling, said Tuesday the results are split for the governor.
“Would she like to be better? Absolutely. Is this some kind of opinion Armageddon? Absolutely not,” he said. “She even had an uptick among her base. That is absolutely positive.”
Among Republicans and independents, her approval rating was 60 percent, while 20.2 percent of that sample said they disapprove.
Huffmon said Haley’s uptick in popularity with her base might have stemmed from media appearances during her recent national book tour. He also said respondents likely aren’t swayed by an ongoing ethics investigation stemming from her service in the House.
He said the outcome of that — and the future state of South Carolina’s economy — will have much more influence on her re-election prospects than any poll.
Phil Bailey, director of the state’s Senate Democratic Caucus, said the poll should set off alarm bells for Haley because her approval numbers haven’t moved much since December.
“Her ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning base is still far below where a political party figurehead should be,” he said, adding that she also should be troubled because her overall approval rating is not benefiting from the state’s more positive view of the economy.
“Voters are not equating an improving state economy with Nikki Haley,” Bailey said.
However, Haley indicated Tuesday that she is not troubled.
“Polls go up and down,” spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “Governor Haley is focused on working hard every day to produce results for the people of South Carolina, and we’re thrilled that our citizens are starting to feel better about our local economy and our state.”
Meanwhile, South Carolinians are feeling more optimistic about the job situation than they were two months ago.
Compared with Winthrop’s February poll, one-third fewer respondents cited jobs or unemployment as the state’s most pressing issue, and 25.8 percent more said the state’s economic condition was at least fairly good.
Huffmon said polling results often precede improvements in unemployment and other economic measures.
”People are more intuitive about these things than we give them credit for,” he said.
The poll sampled 981 South Carolina adults during the last week and has about a 3 percent margin of error.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.