Poll: Haley still maintains lead

State Rep. Nikki Haley

Columbia -- Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley continues to hold a double-digit lead over Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday.

Haley, a Lexington state Representative, won the support of 49 percent of the 500 likely voters polled in an automated telephone survey July 29, a 14 percentage point lead over Sheheen's 35 percent support. Twelve percent of voters said they were undecided. In a June 28 Rasmussen poll, Haley held a 12 percentage point lead over Sheheen.

But the poll shows Haley's support has declined since easily winning the GOP primary in June, falling below 50 percent for the first time since she became the GOP front-runner. Haley registered 55 percent support in a June 14 Rasmussen poll and 52 percent in the June 28 Rasmussen. Sheheen's support also has declined since the June 28 poll, when 40 percent of those surveyed supported Sheheen, a Kershaw County state senator.

The margin of error for the poll is 4.5 percent.

Both campaigns said the poll was good news for their candidates.

"We continue to be very pleased with where we are in the race," said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey, "and will continue to work hard … to bring Nikki's message of conservative reform to the voters."

Sheheen campaign manager Trav Robertson reacted similarly.

"The people of South Carolina have yet to decide who will be their next governor," Robertson said, adding when voters learn about both candidates they will choose Sheheen.

Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard said voters might be a little dissatisfied with the candidates after the primary.

"People have some buyer's remorse with both candidates," Woodard said.

Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said polls taken during the political doldrums of summer are "informative and cautionary," and should be taken with a grain of salt.

"In the summer of 2007, John McCain's Republican primary numbers in S.C. were so low that no one really thought he could come back," he said. "Things tend to evolve, and rapidly, as election day closes in."

Rasmussen also asked 500 likely voters about immigration reform. Poll respondents favor an Arizona-style enforcement law and also back repeal of the provision in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil.

QUESTION: Would you favor or oppose passage of an Arizona-style immigration law in S.C.?

59% Favor?

20% Oppose?

21% Not sure

QUESTION: Some people believe that the goal of immigration policy should be to keep out national security threats, criminals and those who would come here to live off our welfare system. Beyond that, all immigrants would be welcome. Do you agree or disagree with that goal for immigration policy?

66% Agree?

21% Disagree?

13% Not sure

QUESTION: Suppose a woman enters the United States as an illegal alien and gives birth to a child in the United States. Should that child automatically become a citizen of the United States?

32% Yes?

60% No

8% Not sure

Source: Rasmussen