After a tumultuous first month in the White House, it seems that President Donald J. Trump has become less popular among South Carolina residents, according to a new poll released on Thursday.
While Trump won more than half the state’s vote in November, the new Winthrop poll shows 47 percent of 703 South Carolinians disapprove of the new commander in chief, compared to 44 percent who approve.
“A good portion of Republicans only voted for Trump because they didn’t like Clinton or they wanted to keep conservatives on the Supreme Court. But now, many of them are expressing their disapproval of the new administration due to the chaos that’s coming out of the White House,” said Danielle Vinson, a political science professor at Furman University.
Trump has stirred up reactions from Republicans and Democrats since entering office, mostly due to his disagreement with the courts over his controversial executive order banning refugees from entering the U.S., and his struggle to win approval of his Cabinet nominees.
However, the state’s political parties are clearly divided over Trump. South Carolina’s Republicans remain overwhelmingly supportive of the president, with 77 percent approving of his performance and 12 percent disapproving, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
South Carolina’s stance on Trump is also split along racial and gender lines.
About 90 percent of African-American residents disapprove of Trump, and many agree that the words “proud” and “safe” do not describe how they feel about the new president. However, Trump fares better among white South Carolinians, with about 60 percent approving of his performance and 34 percent disapproving.
Trump is also more popular among South Carolina men, with nearly half approving of his performance. But 54 percent of South Carolina women disapprove of Trump.
More than half the women also said Trump did not make them feel proud or safe. “Women aren’t going to tolerate the authoritarian style coming out of the White House, because they want a quiet leader who will get the job done without boasting or creating drama. But that’s not how it’s playing out right now,” Vinson said.
She added that Trump’s rating could improve among South Carolina Republicans and some right-leaning independents if he begins to solve problems “without the chaos” and steps back from public appearances.
“Trump isn’t the kind of person who wants to disappear from the spotlight. He loves it,” Vinson said.
South Carolina’s lawmakers
Winthrop also asked South Carolinians about Republican Henry McMaster, who took over as governor last month when former Gov. Nikki Haley joined the new administration to become the United Nations ambassador.
Forty-four percent of residents approve of the new governor and 16 percent disapprove. But despite his approval rating, McMaster has some work ahead of him before running to retain the governor’s office in 2018. More than a third of the surveyed residents didn’t have an opinion on McMaster.
Last weekend, McMaster asked the Trump administration for either a waiver or another extension for complying with the Real ID Act. The state has until June 6 to meet the security requirements for driver’s licenses.
If South Carolina doesn’t meet the deadline or receive an extension, residents won’t be able to use their driver’s license to enter federal buildings or travel by plane in 2018. They will need to use passports or another form of ID instead.
McMaster also met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last weekend to discuss his letter to the Trump administration requesting roughly $5.2 billion for South Carolina’s roads as part of any federal infrastructure plan.
That could garner McMaster support from undecided voters, as the majority of surveyed residents said South Carolina’s biggest problem is roads, followed by jobs, education, the economy and racism.
“South Carolina is a one-issue state when it comes to politics, because everyone is tired of the legislature and governor not coming up with a fix for the roads,” Vinson said. “If we see a long-term and sustainable solution for the roads then support will likely increase for McMaster. If not, he’s in trouble come 2018.”
The South Carolina House is expected to approve a piece of legislation, H.3516, that would provide billions for road improvements across the state. However, opponents from the state Senate plan to filibuster in the coming weeks.
The proposed legislation aims to create an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund; increase the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over a five-year period; increase the biennial motor vehicle registration fee $16; capitalize on out-of-state registered vehicles; create biennial registration fees for all hybrid and electric vehicles; create a motor carrier road user fee for out-to-state truckers; and reform governance of the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s Highway Commission.
McMaster, who is already campaigning for election in 2018, is a vocal opponent to the increased gas tax and once said the state should ensure that existing gas-tax money goes to pay for roads, not Transportation Department employees. He has also advocated toll roads as a possible solution to the state’s road problems.
Winthrop also asked South Carolinians about U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.
Graham’s popularity has declined, with 46 percent of the 703 residents disapproving of his performance. In recent weeks, Graham has been critical of Trump’s reluctance to issue sanctions against Russia for its aggressiveness toward the Baltic states and its tampering in the U.S. election.
Scott, however, remains a favorite among South Carolinians. Fifty-five percent of the 703 surveyed residents approve of the North Charleston Republican’s performance and 27 percent disapprove.
For more information, visit winthrop.edu.