Inflation, gas prices are top concerns for SC voters as lawmakers return to Columbia for special session

Inflation and gas prices are among the most pressing concerns for South Carolina voters. Voters also feel positive towards legislative reform efforts focused on taxes, education, elections and transparency.   

82% of likely S.C. 2022 general election voters say they are concerned about paying their bills because of inflation and rising prices, according to a new poll by the South Carolina Policy Council – the Palmetto State’s longest-serving think tank focused on limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty and responsibility.

While 82% of respondents say inflation and the rising cost of goods has them concerned about paying their family’s bills, only 13% are not concerned at all. 
Of those worried, 47.2% say they are “very concerned” with 34.6% “somewhat concerned”.

The concerns are bipartisan. 90% of self-identified GOP voters declare themselves concerned, along with 75% of Democrats and 74% of independents.

The SCPC Voter Poll was conducted by Spry Strategies via landline and online interviews from May 31 – June 3 among a random sample of 606 likely voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

From a list of seven choices, 26% of voters named inflation as the most important issue to them and their family, with 24% responding that their top concern is American energy independence. Other leading issues include: drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness (13%) border security (12%) and election security (10%).

“When 8 out of 10 voters are concerned they won’t be able to pay their monthly bills, it is no surprise that inflation is the top concern for South Carolina voters,” said pollster Ryan Burrell, President of Spry Strategies. “In also picking American energy independence as a top concern, South Carolina voters are clearly blaming the high price of gasoline on the energy restrictive policies of the Biden administration.”

Only 39% of likely 2022 South Carolina voters approve of the job President Biden is doing, while 59% disapprove. Biden’s approval rate is 4% less than the 43% share of votes he received in South Carolina during the 2020 general election.

94% of S.C. Democrats approve of Biden’s job performance, compared with 33% of independents. 53.5% of independent voters “strongly disapprove” of Biden’s job performance. A mere 7% of South Carolina Republicans approve of job Mr. Biden is doing.

Biden’s 39% S.C. approval is 1.6% lower than the current Real Clear Politics national polling average of 40.6%, while his statewide 59% disapproval rate is 5% higher than the RCP average of 54% (RCP data as of June 4).

A majority of South Carolina voters (52%) “strongly disapprove” of Biden’s job performance, while only a quarter (26%) “strongly approve”.

South Carolina voters are pessimistic about the direction of the country.

A strong majority (65%) say they believe the country is on the wrong track. Only one in three S.C. voters believe the United States is headed in the right direction. 88% of GOP voters believe the country headed is on the wrong track, as do 25% of Democrats and 69% of independents.

Palmetto State Republicans appear to be gaining in strength on the generic congressional ballot heading into the fall. Without information about specific candidates, 58% say they prefer a Republican candidate for Congress, compared to 34% who prefer a Democrat. This illustrates a +24-point GOP advantage in South Carolina. The GOP leads with independents by 53% to 29%, with 18% of independent voters still undecided.

The GOP is also leading with Hispanic voters. 48% of Hispanic voters say they will definitely or probably vote for a Republican candidate for Congress, while 31% answered Democrat. 22% of Hispanic voters say they have not made their mind up.

“While South Carolina is a conservative state, high inflation and frustration with the Biden administration is pushing voters even further to the right,“ said S.C. Policy Council Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse. “Our poll results show that the 2022 electorate has moved towards the GOP by 4-5%.”

A strong 66% of S.C. voters approve of the job Governor Henry McMaster is doing, while only 31% disapprove. 31% say they “strongly approve” of the governor, while a small number (16%) “strongly disapprove”.

The governor isn’t just popular with Republican voters – McMaster is also approved by 65% of independent voters. Showing the strength of his broad appeal, more than one-third of all Democrats (35%) approve of the job the governor is doing.

McMaster appears to have grown in support considerably since his successful election as governor in 2018, when he captured 54% of the vote (compared to his current 66% approval).

With all of South Carolina’s neighboring states now having lower or no state income taxes, a whopping 78% of state voters say that when it comes to “creating jobs and attracting new business”, it is important for lawmakers to cut the income tax. 54% say it is “very important”.

This belief is consistent across political lines. 59% of GOP voters, 52% of Democrats and 49% of independent voters believe is it “very important” for South Carolina to cut its income tax to remain competitive.

Voters believe South Carolina lawmakers should prioritize tax relief over increased government spending when it comes using the multibillion-dollar state revenue surplus.  

A plurality of 47% of voters say lawmakers should make tax relief a higher priority over increases in government spending on “programs like education, transportation and healthcare.” 38% favor more government spending over tax relief.

Of those who answered tax relief, 32% of respondents preferred permanent tax cuts while 15% valued a one-time rebate for taxpayers (a more than 2-1 margin).

GOP voters favor tax relief over increased state spending 54% to 27%, as do independent voters 52 to 25%. Only Democratic voters (58%) favor more government spending over tax relief (30%).

“As South Carolina lawmakers return to Columbia to enact historic tax relief and reform, they can be confident that voters understand the need to make bold and lasting cuts to state income taxes so our state can remain attractive to new jobs, industry, and relocation,” said Woodhouse. 

Legislation on election security and school choice that recently passed or is near the finish line is showing strong public support.

When explained that “South Carolina is considering a new education scholarship program that would pay for some low-income K through 12 students to attend private schools of their choice.  The cost per student would be equal to or less than what the state is currently spending to educate these children”
52% of voters say they approve of the new school choice plan, while only 35% disapprove.

The measure is wildly popular among GOP voters, with 64% approving of the school choice program and 25% opposing it. 39% of Democrats also answered with approval.

47% of independent voters favor the plan compared to 44% opposed and 9% undecided/unsure.

“Covid-19 raised the issue of school choice to unprecedented levels across the country with parents and citizens in general learning the needs of school children can’t always be met with a one-size-fits-all approach,“ said Woodhouse. ”Should lawmakers get this important piece of school choice legislation across the finish line, they will be supported by a majority of South Carolina’s electorate.”

A significant number of voters (79%) say “local school boards and other government bodies” should be required to broadcast their public meetings on the internet for greater transparency and accountability. Only 9% disagree.

Voters on both sides of the aisle are strongly supportive of the new election reform law.

When told that the law “allows two weeks of in-person early voting, tightens rules for voting by mail, strengthens criminal penalties for voter fraud and requires auditing of election results,” 80% of voters say they approve. Only 14% disapprove.

92% of GOP voters and 59% of Democrats approve of the measures, along with 83% of independent voters.

The law is already boosting confidence in South Carolina’s elections, with 75% of respondents saying they believe that “this year’s elections in South Carolina will be fair and will accurately reflect the choices of South Carolina voters” with the measures in place. Only 15% disagree.

An astounding 80% of Republican, 66% of Democrat and 78% of independent voters believe South Carolina elections will be fair and accurate.
“South Carolina lawmakers and Governor McMaster have shown the nation it is possible to find bipartisan support by expanding ways to vote, while also making elections more secure. Our polling shows that not only is this a policy popular, but it is increasing confidence in this year’s elections,” added Woodhouse.

Two prominent S.C. political leaders facing re-election this year remain in positive territory with voters.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott is seen favorably by 60% of voters and unfavorably by 28% – showing a +32 favorability rating. 41% have a “very favorable” opinion of the senator and only 16% have a “very unfavorable” opinion.

Governor McMaster is seen favorably by 58% of voters, compared to 34% with an unfavorable view – showing a +24% favorable rating.
Survey links and contact information 

Find the full survey results here and condensed crosstabs here. Full crosstabs are available here

For questions on the poll or to arrange an interview please email [email protected]

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