South Carolinians are much more likely to believe women who report being sexually harassed, a new poll by Winthrop University finds.
At the same time, many also support the recent appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, accused of sexual assault, and their opinion has gone up of the state’s senior senator, who pushed to get that associate justice on the court.
In all, 73 percent of respondents told the Winthrop Poll most women who report being harassed are telling the truth.
Majorities in the poll disagreed that women who report harassment “cause more problems than they solve” — 69 percent disagree — and that harassment in the workplace is no longer a problem — 87 percent disagree.
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There is still concern about false reports of harassment however. A large majority — 79 percent — said innocent men have to “be extra careful these days” to avoid accusations of sexual harassment.
The issue was most recently in the news because of the controversial appointment of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nominated by President Donald Trump, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the nation’s highest court last month after a woman came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a high school party more than 30 years ago.
Half — 50 percent — of the South Carolinians surveyed told pollsters they support Kavanaugh’s appointment. Thirty-nine percent said they disapprove of Kavanaugh’s appointment. Nine percent said they were unsure, and one percent refused to answer.
Forty-seven percent said they had a favorable opinion of Kavanaugh, while 41 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
“When it comes to sexual harassment, Kavanaugh supporters are less likely to agree that most women who report harassment are telling the truth and more likely to agree that men must be extra careful to avoid false accusations,” said Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon.
Lindsey Graham gets a Kavanaugh bump
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s forceful defense of Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing seems to have boosted his standing among S.C. voters, Republicans in particular.
While slightly more South Carolinians disapproved than approved of Graham when Winthrop last polled the state in April, the senator’s approval rating has gone up to 49 percent from 45 percent, and the number of South Carolinians who disapprove of Graham has dropped to 41 percent from 46 percent.
Among self-identified Republicans, the Seneca Republican has seen his support skyrocket — to 72 percent from 51 percent — and his disapproval among GOP-leaning voters plummet — to 20 percent from 44 percent.
“Graham’s new persona as tireless, and occasionally aggressive, cheerleader for the president and his agenda resonates well with the Republican base in South Carolina,” Winthrop’s Huffmon said. “His vigorous defense of Judge Kavanaugh and vocal support for President Trump has returned him to the good graces of his party.”
Graham’s Senate colleague Tim Scott, R-Charleston, got similarly high marks. More than half of those surveyed — 55 percent — approve of Scott’s performance versus 25 percent who disapprove. Among Republicans, who rule the state, Scott’s approval rating was even higher — 76 percent to only 8 percent who disapprove.
McMaster more popular as Election Day nears
The latest poll also contains some good news for S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster.
As Tuesday’s Election Day approaches, the Republican governor from Columbia has the approval of 51 percent of S.C. residents, while only 29 percent disapprove of the job McMaster is doing. Eighteen percent were unsure.
McMaster’s approval rating is up from April, when the Winthrop Poll found that just 46 percent of those surveyed approved of his performance.
The poll did not ask about McMaster’s Democratic opponent on Nov. 6, state Rep. James Smith of Columbia. And pollsters stressed the Winthrop Poll was a survey of all S.C. residents, not likely voters, and so should not be used to project the results of next week’s election.
The latest poll also found:
▪ Trump’s approval rating in the state held steady; 44 percent approve of his job performance, down slightly from 46 percent in April. The president remains unpopular overall, with 49 percent of state residents disapproving. But Republicans remain strong supporters of the president, with 83 percent approving of his performance.
▪ Immigration is the most pressing issue facing the country ahead of Election Day, with 18 percent of respondents ranking it as their top issue, followed by racism — 9.3 percent — and politicians and government — 8.8 percent.
▪ In South Carolina, education is the top issue, picked by 16.3 percent of respondents. Roads, bridges and infrastructure are the top concern of 6 percent, followed by jobs and unemployment with 5.8 percent.
▪ Congress is pretty unpopular with South Carolinians. Sixty-nine percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, while only 19 percent approve.
▪ The S.C. Legislature has the approval of 46 percent of those surveyed, while 35 percent disapprove of the job state lawmakers are doing. Sixteen percent were unsure.
Most believe in climate change, disagree on the cause
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Michael striking the state this fall, most South Carolinians accept that climate change is happening, according to the poll.
But they are split about the cause.
When offered a range of options, 28 percent said humans are the primary cause of climate change, while 20 percent said it was a natural process. Forty-eight percent assigned responsibility equally to humans and nature. Only 3 percent denied that climate change is happening at all.
“Many polls force respondents into a single all-or-nothing question on climate change,” Winthrop’s Huffmon said. “However, when presented with the ability to flatly deny climate change or acknowledge it but assign causal blame to either man or mother nature, we see fewer flatly denying that climate change is happening.”
Winthrop surveyed 674 S.C. residents by both landline and cellphone between Oct. 20 and Oct. 28. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.