State Politics

Lindsey Graham leading in bid to keep US Senate seat, poll shows

As President Donald Trump fights an effort in the U.S. House to impeach him, one of his top defenders — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — remains in good standing with S.C. voters, according to the latest snapshot of how Graham is polling in the state.

Fifty-three percent of S.C. voters said they back Graham’s 2020 re-election bid, compared to the 30% who support his likely Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, according to a new poll commissioned by the pro-Graham Security in Strength PAC and done by Benchmark Research.

That margin is far wider than a September survey of voters that showed Harrison trailing Graham by just 7 percentage points.

What could help Harrison, who has raised large amounts cash in his bid to unseat the GOP incumbent, is that many — or 18% of S.C. voters — remain undecided, according to the poll. A little money spent on boosting name ID could change that, observers note.

“Everyone is using memory and national media” currently to promote their candidacy, said Democratic pollster Carey Crantford, who noted that Harrison has built-in Democratic support but could increase it by spending money on, for example, digital ads.

Harrison is still a newcomer to electoral politics, Crantford said. “Not to politics, but to statewide electoral politics.”

The same poll also showed half of S.C. voters — 50%— approve of Graham’s job in Congress, compared to 36% who disapprove.

“On the whole, South Carolinians are happy about the direction of our state and support our elected leadership on the state and federal levels,” said Walter Whetsell, a GOP campaign consultant and president of Benchmark Research. “Additionally, voters here support his strong stance on illegal immigration and want to see the border wall completed.”

When asked whether they support or oppose building a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border to “try and stop illegal immigration,” 56% of South Carolina voters said they support the construction, versus 41% who oppose it. Another 3% said they were unsure.

The survey of 450 registered S.C. voters was done Oct. 15-21 — right as the impeachment inquiry and U.S. involvement in Syria were in the news.

The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points in 19 of 20 cases.

Of those polled, 54% identified as Republican and 29% said they leaned Democrat. Eight percent said they identified as Independent.

Benchmark reached 290 voters through their landline, compared to 160 voters reached by cell phone.

Crantford said the percentage of Democrats polled seemed a bit low, adding that up for discussion is whether, even in red states like South Carolina, there’s an increase in those who identify as Democrats “because they are more engaged in what’s going on nationally.”

But, Crantford added, it’s not unusual in Republican polling in red states to see stronger numbers in those who identify as Republicans.

And of those surveyed, 67% were white and 25% were black, matching S.C. voter breakdowns in presidential and off year elections.

In the 2016 and 2018 general elections, 28% of voters who cast ballots were not white, while about 71% were white.

How is SC doing?

In the same poll, South Carolina voters also sounded off on whether they believe the state is heading in the right direction and whether they could support a Medicare-for-all health care plan, a signature proposal from some Democratic presidential hopefuls.

An overwhelming number of S.C. voters polled — 67% — said they oppose a Medicare-for-all health care system.

Only 21% said they would support the plan and 11% said they were unsure.

The number of those in favor of the system was far higher among Democratic voters — 48% compared with 7% of Republicans.

On South Carolina, 51% of those polled said the state is headed in the right direction, versus 33% who said it’s on the wrong track.

Split though were voters on where the the U.S. stood: 45% said it was on the right track, versus 49% who said it was not.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the poll surveyed 450 registered S.C. voters.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.