CLEMSON, S.C. — The first Clemson University Palmetto Poll of 2014, taken just before Democratic and Republican primary voters go to the polls Tuesday, finds incumbents doing well, some unfamiliarity with candidates and issues, and an early insight into the 2016 presidential primary in the state.

Palmetto PollGOP voters in South Carolina, like those in Kentucky and Texas in last week’s primaries, seem content to return their incumbent office holders to power. That appears to be the case in South Carolina as well.  U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has six challengers in the GOP primary, but in a head-to-head matchup he is close to having 50 percent support among primary voters.

Frequent Republican primary voters were asked if the election were held today, for whom would they vote. Graham received support from 49 percent of those polled, far ahead of the 9 percent support for his closest competitor, Lee Bright. South Carolina law requires primary candidates to win votes from 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

Lindsey Graham
49%
Lee Bright
9%
Richard Cash
3%
Nancy Mace
2%
Det Bowers
1%
Bill Connor
1%
Benjamin Dunn
0%
Undecided/Don’t know
35%

Responding to the question about whether they would vote to re-elect Graham regardless of who runs against him, 31 percent of voters in a September 2013 Palmetto Poll said they would. That number has climbed to 46 percent in the new poll.

The poll shows the incumbents in general are doing well in the Palmetto State.

“GOP voters in South Carolina, like those in other parts of the country, seem content to return their incumbent office holders to power,” said political science professor Dave Woodard. “Kentucky voters recently turned away a primary challenge to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Texas voters did the same for incumbent John Cornyn. That appears to be the case in South Carolina as well.”

Incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley has little primary opposition and strong support in her bid to return to office in November, according to the poll. Haley received support from 73 percent of those polled, compared to 6 percent for Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen and 2 percent for independent candidate Tom Ervin.

Asked about their satisfaction with statewide elected officials, GOP voters gave “excellent” or “good” marks to Haley, Graham and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

 
Excellent Good Fair Poor Don’t know/NA
Haley
31% 49% 12% 6% 2%
Graham
24% 35% 25% 14% 2%
Scott
30% 35% 11% 3% 21%

Predictably, responses to the question of whether the country is on the right track followed party lines. A significant majority of Republicans polled (86 percent) believe the country is on the wrong track, while a smaller majority of Democrats (46 percent to 39 percent) believe it is on the right track.

In an early look at the 2016 presidential field, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the favorite among GOP voters with 22 percent support from those polled compared to second-place Chris Christie (10 percent). However, nearly half of respondents are undecided.

Jeb Bush
22%
Chris Christie
10%
Rand Paul
9%
Ted Cruz
9%
Marco Rubio
6%
Bobby Jindal
3%
Undecided/Don’t know
48%

Among Democrats asked if the presidential primary were held today, half said they would vote for Hillary Clinton, with 35 percent still undecided.

Hillary Clinton
50%
Joe Biden
12%
Andrew Cuomo
2%
Martin O’Malley
1%
Brian Schwietzer
-
Deval Patrick
-
Undecided/Don’t know
35%

The Clemson University Palmetto Poll (link to poll) surveyed 400 frequent Republican voters from May 22 to 29 and 400 Democrats from May 26 to June 2. The poll has a plus or minus confidence of 6 percent and included nearly 8 percent of cell phone users in each category.

See a PDF version of the poll report online.

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