Speaking of Nikki Haley (and SC Polling Numbers)

As James Joyner notes, SC Governor Nikki Haley has endorsed Mitt Romney in the GOP nomination contest.  This, of course, no small thing insofar as SC is the third of the important early contests in the process to select the GOP’s presidential candidate.

This news reminded me of a headline that I had noted the other day, which concerned Haley’s approval numbers.  A new Winthrop University poll puts her approval numbers at 34.6%.  It should be noted that her approval rating with Republicans is 52.5%.

Of course, as The State notes in a piece on the poll, the Haley is suffering through the effects of the economy like most politicians these days:

Scott Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop and the director of its poll, said Haley’s biggest problems are tied to South Carolina’s weak economy. South Carolina’s jobless rate is one of the highest in the country.

“She is squarely taking the blame for the bad economy, but she has been suffering from a thousand cuts,” Huffmon said. “Those things sort of eat away at her base by attrition.”

While Haley’s numbers are weak, they might not be as weak as they appear, Huffmon added.

Just over 20 percent of those polled said they had no opinion of Haley’s performance. “Of those who have an opinion, her approval rating is 44.6 percent,” Huffmon said.

The story also suggests some other factors that might be influencing her popularity.

Now, I do not put a lot of stock in endorsements, but it is interesting to note that the plurality of Republicans in SC are going with Gingrich.  Back to the Winthrop poll:

Among likely Republican Presidential Primary voters, 38.4% said their first choice to be the Republican nominee was Newt Gingrich. This marks a dramatic jump from the September 2011 Winthrop Poll when Gingrich won just 5.3% of the vote. Mitt Romney came in second with 21.5%, while Rick Perry who placed first in the Winthrop Poll in mid-September, came in third with 9%.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jay says:

    Just a note on this poll. SC is generally a heavy Republican state, so it is hard to see why Winthrop weighted it with 36% of respondents being Democrats and only 30% being Republicans.

  2. PJ says:

    @Jay: You would have to re-weight that poll to 90% R to get her approval ratings above 50%.

    40% R, 30% D 30% I, and she would still be below 40%.


    SC Republicans, angry with the results, seem to think that this is a biased question:

    “Do you think it is possible to address national budget concerns without any tax increases on any groups, or would some tax increases be required to address national budget concerns?”

    I guess when not even a majority of the Republicans in the poll think that you can do it without any tax increases, they have to question the question… Or they don’t understand what biased mean.