Home U.S. Lindsey Graham leads Jaime Harrison in the South Carolina Senate race, a...

Lindsey Graham leads Jaime Harrison in the South Carolina Senate race, a new poll shows.

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President Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham have established clear but not overwhelming advantages in South Carolina, a heavily Republican state that is showing signs of competitiveness this year, according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll.

Mr. Trump leads Joseph R. Biden Jr., 49 percentage points to 41, while Mr. Graham, who is facing the most serious challenge of his career, is winning 46 percent of the vote compared with 40 percent for his Democratic rival, Jaime Harrison.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Donald Trump holds a clear lead over Joe Biden in South Carolina.

2016 result
NYT/Siena
Oct. 2020
+14 Trump 55-41
+8 Trump 49-41

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 605 likely voters in South Carolina from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15.

The Senate race, though, may be even more competitive because the survey finds that 12 percent of Black voters are undecided, which could favor Mr. Harrison, who is African-American. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried South Carolina since Jimmy Carter in 1976, a streak that appears unlikely to be broken this year. But the combination of Black voters and white transplants there is poised to make the state more of a battleground than an afterthought going forward.

It’s this coalition of voters that’s pushing Mr. Trump’s advantage into single digits, four years after he carried South Carolina by 14 points, and that has made the race between Mr. Graham and Mr. Harrison perhaps the most surprisingly close Senate matchup of 2020.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

The Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham polls ahead of his Democratic challenger in this surprisingly competitive Senate race.

Dem. Rep. Margin
NYT/Siena NYT/Siena 605, Oct. 9–15)
Jaime Harrison

Lindsey Graham

8% undecided
Data for Progress Data for Progress 801, Oct. 8–11)
Dem. pollster
801, Oct. 8–11) Dem. pollster
Morning Consult Morning Consult 903, Oct. 2–11)
ALG Research ALG Research 1,011, Sept. 29–Oct. 5)
Dem. pollster
1,011, Sept. 29–Oct. 5) Dem. pollster
GBAO GBAO 800, Sept. 24–28)
Dem. pollster
800, Sept. 24–28) Dem. pollster
Quinnipiac University Quinnipiac 1,123, Sept. 23–27)

Still, South Carolina remains more conservative than its fast-changing neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina, and quite forbidding for Democrats. The state hasn’t elected a Democratic governor or senator since 1998.

While college-educated white voters in other Sun Belt states favor Mr. Biden or break even between the two presidential contenders, they favor Mr. Trump 50 percent to 38 percent in South Carolina. Even more stark, and for Democrats downright daunting, is the gap among white voters without a college degree: 77 percent favor Mr. Trump while just 18 percent support Mr. Biden.

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