COLUMBIA — A poll commissioned by Democratic congressional candidate Joe Cunningham suggests Lowcountry voters are interested in sending "someone new" to Congress after U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford's 11 years combined in the House.
The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling from March 1 to 4 with 788 voters in the 1st Congressional District, puts Sanford's approval rating at 44 percent, with 40 percent disapproving of the Charleston Republican's handling of the job.
The survey also has President Donald Trump's approval rating slightly underwater in the district, with 46 percent backing Trump to 47 percent disapproval.
A Democratic polling firm based in Raleigh, Public Policy Polling has a reputation of left-leaning results, although the company's average statistical bias appears to have evened out, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
In this poll, 49 percent of respondents said they voted for Trump to 38 percent for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, which tracks roughly similar to the actual results of Trump's 53 to Clinton's 41.
Cunningham said the result shows that it is possible to flip the district blue for the first time since it went red in 1980.
"The people of the Lowcountry are tired of do-nothing career politicians like Mark Sanford and they're ready for a bipartisan leader who can solve real problems like traffic, lack of affordable healthcare, and corruption in D.C.," Cunningham said.
Jon Kohan, an adviser for Sanford's campaign, dismissed the poll as "déjà vu all over again."
"This is the same left-leaning polling organization that in 2013 told us Sanford would resoundingly lose, while he instead won by nearly 10 points," Kohan said. "As you can see with the number of public stops Congressman Sanford has had this week in the Lowcountry, he’s focused on doing his job for the constituents of the 1st District.”
In that 2013 race, Public Policy Polling had Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch leading for months until the very end, when they ultimately predicted Sanford would come out on top.
Sanford's main Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Katie Arrington of Summerville, also said she saw positive signs from the poll. With 52 percent of voters saying they want "someone new" over Sanford, she emphasized her view that Sanford is insufficiently supportive of Trump.
"Our results say the same thing, that the people of our district want a new conservative voice," Arrington said. "They want a conservative who is going to stand proudly with the president and not bash him on CNN, and I'm that conservative."
One other Democrat is running against Cunningham in the June 12 primary: Toby Smith, a consultant for nonprofits.