February 28, 2018
By Bristow Marchant
A majority of South Carolinians oppose drilling for oil off the S.C. coast, a new poll finds.
The poll by Winthrop University found that 51 percent of South Carolinians surveyed oppose offshore drilling. Forty-one percent favored drilling.
The poll found support for drilling varied radically between self-identified Democrats – 71 percent opposed and 24 percent favoring – and self-identified Republicans – 63 percent favoring and 30 percent opposed.
In South Carolina’s six coastal counties – Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper – 54 percent of residents oppose drilling, while 37 percent said they would support the idea.
The majority of S.C. Republicans split with GOP Gov. Henry McMaster, who opposes offshore drilling, on the issue.
McMaster has said drilling off the S.C. coast would threaten the environment and the state’s tourism economy. The governor has asked his allies in the Trump administration, which has proposed opening the Atlantic coast to drilling, to exempt South Carolina from the planned changes.
Plans for drilling off the coast also have drawn opposition from coastal communities and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, who spoke about the effects that drilling would have on his coastal district at a rally at the S.C. State House on Feb. 13.
However, the drilling issue may not hurt McMaster with Republican voters, who hold their primary in June.
Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, one of McMaster’s leading primary opponents, also opposes drilling. But Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson – who has said he favors searching for oil but hasn’t decided whether he supports drilling – could pick up GOP support on the issue.