New poll shows Graham, Harrison in tie for Senate seat

Trump holds lead over Biden
Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 4:24 PM EDT
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HAMDEN, Conn. (WCSC/WIS) - A Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday shows South Carolina’s Senate race between Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham and former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison in a tie.

Both candidates have 44 percent of voters backing them, the poll found.

Nine percent say they are undecided, according to a release from the university.

Of voters who named either candidate as the one they intended to vote for, 85% said their minds are made up, while 13% say they might change their minds before Election Day.

The poll also found Graham had a lower job approval rating compared with fellow Republican Sen. Tim Scott. Forty-seven percent of voters disapprove of the way Graham is handling his job while 43 percent approve. But 55 percent approve of Scott’s handling of his job, compared with 22 percent disapproving. Another 22 percent say they don’t know.

Voters give Gov. Henry McMaster a 45 percent approval rating and a 40 percent disapproval, with 15 percent saying they don’t know. In terms of the governor’s handling of the pandemic, voters are evenly split, with 46% approving and 46% disapproving.

South Carolina voters give President Donald Trump a 49% approval rating, the poll found. Forty-seven percent of South Carolina voters disapprove.

But Trump receives a higher disapproval rating than McMaster for his handling of the pandemic. The poll found 51% of South Carolina voters disapprove of Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic while 46% approved, which ties McMaster's approval rating.

For the presidential race, the poll states South Carolina voters believe Trump would to a better job in four of five areas surveyed:

IssueDonald TrumpJoe Biden
Handling the economy5639
Handling a crisis5046
Handling health care4945
Handling the response to the coronavirus4847
Addressing racial inequality4249

Handling racial inequality issues is the only issue in which Biden has a clear lead over Trump among Palmetto State voters, the poll found. It also states 70% of South Carolina voters called racial inequality “a serious problem.”

The poll questioned 914 self-identified registered voters between July 30 and this past Monday, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

A poll released this week from Morning Consult, a non-partisan polling firm, showed Graham only one point ahead of Harrison. But poll-rater FiveThirtyEight does not consider Morning Consult a top-rated poll in part because it uses online surveys rather than real people calling to voter’s phone.

Scott Huffmon, the director of the Polling Initiative at Winthrop University, said no single poll is an “absolute barometer of what’s going on,” but this poll is an indication of a larger trend: the race for the South Carolina Senate is not expected to be a huge blowout for Graham.

“A single-digit race is likely, there are enough polls showing a trend and none of them are single outliers. And given the fact that in 2008 Obama only lost by single digits with a strong African-American turnout, I think we are going to see that again,” Huffmon said.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama lost South Carolina by 8.7 points to Sen. John McCain in 2008 and less than 11 points in 2012 to Mitt Romney. But, Hillary Clinton lost South Carolina by 14 points.

Therefore, Huffmon argues turnout similar to Obama’s in 2008 is hugely important for Harrison to tighten the race, which he thinks is possible.

“You’re seeing a lot more African-American engagement this time…as compared to 2016. Especially with the Black Lives Matter Movement,” he said.

Huffmon adds the other key to Harrison potentially defeating an incumbent who has defeated three challengers since 2002, is split-ticket voting.

“[Harrison] has a path, but it’s very narrow. Because of how closely tied Lindsey Graham is to Trump you almost have to imagine Trump losing South Carolina for Graham to lose South Carolina and it’s not impossible due to split-ticket voting. But it’s highly unlikely,” Huffmon said.

In the latest Morning Consult poll, President Trump had a five-point advantage in the Palmetto State while Graham was only ahead by one point. Further, nine percent of Republicans were undecided in the Senate race and four percent said they’d vote for someone else. In comparison, four percent of Democrats were undecided and one percent said they’d vote for someone else other than Harrison.

However, a slim chance of split-ticket voting in Harrison’s favor doesn’t mean an impossibility, Huffmon added.

“People absolutely in South Carolina and elsewhere in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s were splitting their tickets, it’s not unheard of for most people…Will it happen here? It’s entirely possible. And part of that is how Jamie Harrison is running his campaign. He’s not just running his campaign as ‘Lindsey Graham is with Trump all the time.’ He is also running on a lot of other issues to pick up a lot of those undecided,” Huffmon said.

The pollster explained many of Harrison’s attacks against the Senator claim Graham is more focused on his national career than the people of South Carolina.

Huffmon predicted members of the Graham campaign will “pound the pavement” to widen that margin and both campaigns have sizable war chests to do so.

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