As Gov. Henry McMaster delivers his State of the State address Wednesday evening, a new S.C. Policy Council poll reveals voters’ opinions on key state issues involving taxes, education and abortion. It also shows that South Carolinians continue to suffer the impacts of inflation, and that most SC voters believe America is on the wrong track.

SCPC’s January voter survey was conducted by Spry Strategies using IVR, cell phone and online interviews from January 17-19 among a random sample of 637 likely South Carolina voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. SCPC is the Palmetto State’s longest-serving nonpartisan free market research organization.

Overall Survey Highlights
  • Just 38% of likely SC voters said America is on the right track, while 58% said it is on the wrong track.
  • Overall, 78% of SC voters said they are concerned they may not be able to pay their bills because of inflation, with nearly half (48%) being very concerned.
  • Voters are demanding more government transparency. 83% agreed that local school boards and other government bodies should be required to broadcast/livestream their public meetings on the internet for transparency and accountability.

A recent SCPC report made seven key recommendations on how to improve transparency in state and local government, including requiring government bodies to livestream their meetings and archive the video recordings for later viewing.

Fortunately, a growing number of public bodies are taking these steps voluntarily, which has helped to increase public awareness and engagement. Other recommendations include making public information more readily available and making more state employee salary records available to the public.

Voters support further tax cuts

A strong majority of likely SC voters believe South Carolina must further lower its income tax to remain competitive. Despite a recent tax cut (with smaller cuts planned going forward), South Carolina’s top personal income tax rate remains the highest in the Southeast at 6.5%, while Georgia’s top rate is 5.75% and North Carolina has a flat rate of 4.75%. Of course, Tennessee and Florida have no state personal income tax.

When asked: South Carolina now has higher state income tax rates than all its neighboring states. When it comes to creating jobs and attracting new business, how important do you think it is for South Carolina lawmakers to reduce income tax rates?

  • Nearly four in five (79%) likely SC voters said further tax reductions are important for creating new jobs and attracting business, with 54% saying they are very important.
  • 85% of GOP voters said further tax cuts are important, as did 68% of Democrat voters and 81% of independent voters.

South Carolina has the opportunity for considerable tax cuts this year, as the governor’s executive budget indicates yet another multibillion-dollar revenue surplus. 

School choice legislation has broad and bi-partisan support

Data from SCPC’s January voter poll shows broad and bi-partisan support for school choice legislation being debated by the General Assembly.

Voters were asked:

“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, or help cover the cost of tutoring, textbooks, computers and more. The cost per student would be equal to or less than what the state is currently spending to educate these children. Do you approve or disapprove of this new school choice plan?”

  • 60% of voters said they approve of the school choice program, while only 30% disapproved. By a 2-1 margin, more voters strongly approved of it (32%) than strongly disapproved (16%).

For more information on the school choice proposal, click here.

Voters weigh in on abortion

South Carolina voters are striking a middle ground when it comes to abortion, as state lawmakers grapple with how to address this polarizing issue.

  • A majority (52%) of likely SC voters said abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, while more than one-third (34%) said it should be legal under any circumstances. Only 14% of voters said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
  • While 64% of Democrat voters thought abortion should be legal under all circumstances, only 12 % of GOP voters said the same. Only 21% of GOP voters said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. A very small percentage (6%) of Democrats said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances.
  • Most GOP voters (67%) said abortion should be legal under some circumstances, while 30% of Democrats held that position.

The recent S.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state fetal heartbeat law (which banned most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy) has not convinced voters that the state Constitution should be amended to allow for stricter abortion laws.

When asked:

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently struck down a law that banned abortions after six weeks in most circumstances. The court ruled that South Carolina women must have a reasonable opportunity to terminate a pregnancy. Would you support or oppose a state constitutional amendment that would restrict or ban most abortions?

  • 48% of voters said they would oppose an amendment, while 34% said they would support an amendment.
  • A bare majority (51%) of GOP voters said they would support an amendment restricting abortion, while just 37% of independent voters indicated support.
  • 73% of Democrat voters and 52% of independent voters said they would oppose such an amendment, as would 28% of GOP voters.

Both male and female voters largely said they would oppose an amendment restricting abortion:

  • Only 38% of men and 32% of women said they would support an amendment.
  • 45% of men and 50% of women said they would oppose of an amendment.

Data from SCPC’s January poll of likely 2024 primary voters indicates that partisans from each major party are looking to move on from President Biden and former President Trump. Click here to read more.

Find the full survey results here and crosstabs here. If you have questions about the poll or would like to arrange an interview, please email [email protected] or call 803-779-5022.