COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - New numbers show voters are split on Governor Nikki Haley's job performance.
A new Winthrop University poll released Tuesday shows Haley's approval rating is healing, but hasn't made a full recovery since dipping to 34 percent last December.
The latest poll shows 37.8 percent of registered voters approve of the governor's performance, while 38.5 percent gave her a thumbs down. Haley tended to fare better within her own party. Republicans and independents who lean Republican gave Haley a 60 percent approval rating.
While the latest numbers are an improvement over December's rating, experts say the number is still low, and point out the governor likely saw an uptick thanks to an improving economy.
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"What we've seen are her negatives have gone down," said Dr. Bob Oldendick of USC's Institute for Public Service and Policy Research. "I think that mostly that's attributable to the changes that we're starting to see in the economy."
Haley, a first-term Republican, has made job creation her top priority and the employment figures would indicate she is holding up her end of the bargain.
Last week, South Carolina's unemployment rate dropped to 8.9 percent, the eighth straight month of decline, and first time it has dipped below 9 percent since 2008.
That number has continued to drop while the Haley camp has touted a series of manufacturing jobs announcements in recent months. Last month, Sumter County broke ground on a new Continental Tire plant that will ultimately employ 1,600 people by 2021.
"We are now the one everyone is looking at for how to bring business," said Haley following last week's release of the latest unemployment rate. "Not bring it from one state to the other, but how to bring it from overseas to South Carolina."
A declining number of South Carolinians are worried about the economy according to the Winthrop numbers. February's poll numbers showed more people tapped jobs and unemployment as the most pressing issue facing the Palmetto State. Fewer pointed to those factors in April's poll, but, it is still the top concern.
While Haley's approval rating has inched up slightly, it is still a far cry from what is was as recently as last September when 69 percent of registered voters polled by Winthrop researchers approved of the job she was doing.
"Polls go up and down," said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey on Tuesday. "Governor Haley is focused on working hard every day to produce results for the people of South Carolina, and we're thrilled that our citizens are starting to feel better about our local economy and our state. They deserve to be feeling better because South Carolina is once again on the move."
While Haley's numbers are low, state lawmakers are doing worse. Just 34 percent of voters polled say they approve of the job the state legislature is doing, while 41 percent disapprove. Those unfavorable numbers come during an election year for lawmakers.
"There's a little more trust in the local government than the national government," said Dr. Oldendick. "But, any level of government still isn't trusted very much. It's a feeling of distrust and suspicion about what goes on in government."
Winthrop researchers polled 981 adults living in South Carolina April 15-April 22.