Sanford's Popularity Problem (Updated)

I say this after every scandal, but, since it's still true, I'll say it again: Whether a politician survives or not has as ...
by | June 25, 2009

I say this after every scandal, but, since it's still true, I'll say it again: Whether a politician survives or not has as much to do with his or her popularity prior to the incident as it does with the seriousness of the misconduct itself. For Mark Sanford, that's bad news.

For most of his term as governor, Sanford has been disliked by state legislators and other South Carolina political insiders. Despite that, and despite the state's unusually high unemployment rate (even before the current recession), Sanford generally stayed in the good graces of the state's conservative voters.

That appears to have changed this spring, however, as the economy suffered and Sanford made his stand against accepting the stimulus. Here's a Charlotte Observer article from April:

S.C. voters are unhappy about his stance. A recent poll by Crantford and Associates, an established firm in Columbia, surveyed 1,382 S.C. voters and found the once-popular Sanford's favorable rating had dropped to 40 percent, with 53 unfavorable. In contrast, President Obama rated 49 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable. More important for Republicans, 54 percent of the key swing voters who identified as independents viewed the governor unfavorably, and 56 percent disagreed with his position on the stimulus money.

What this means is that there isn't a reservoir of good will for Sanford that will offer him protection now. It's been clear for a few years that the legislature would like to get rid of Sanford. If legislators find grounds for impeachment, they won't have to worry too much about the people of South Carolina not wanting to see the governor leave.

Update: You don't have to take my word for it that South Carolinians have soured on Sanford. We now have two instant polls showing that at least half of South Carolina adults want him to resign. SurveyUSA puts the number at 60%, while InsiderAdvantage puts it at 50%.

Those numbers should be viewed as a preliminary snapshot. Depending on the details that emerge in the days ahead, anger at Sanford could grow or it could recede. For now, though, the governor is in quite a weak spot.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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