State Profile

South Carolina, the Palmetto State, is one of the original 13 colonies and has voted in every presidential election except in 1864 due to secession. South Carolina used to vote almost exclusively Democratic but flipped to Republican in the 1960s in response to civil rights legislation. Since 1964, the state has voted Republican in every presidential election except when Jimmy Carter bested Gerald Ford in 1976. Republicans control all statewide offices, and the Senate and House delegations.

South Carolina’s House delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with six seats taken by four Republicans and two Democrats. The last time Democrats held the majority was in the 102nd Congress from 1991 to 1993, before the majority became split in 1993 and then taken over by the Republican Party in 1995. Currently, the delegation holds a Republican majority with five Republicans and two Democrats, the Democrats being newly elected Joe Cunningham and long-serving James Clyburn.

Senate seats in South Carolina are also both held by Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. The last time Democrats held both seats was in 1963, but the delegation was split from 1963 to 2005, until Fritz Hollings retired and was succeeded by Republican Jim DeMint in the 109th Congress.

The trends in South Carolina’s recent congressional elections reflect its position as a Republican stronghold and recent statewide elections in South Carolina have mirrored these results.

Both current Governor Henry McMaster and Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette are Republican. The last time a Democrat held the governor’s office in South Carolina was from 1999 to 2003 with Jim Hodges. In fact, Hodges was the only Democrat elected to the South Carolina Governor’s office since 1987.

33.7 percent of South Carolina’s total population is rural, and for a red stronghold, an unexpected number of counties are blue, with one third actually tending to vote more Democratic in major elections like the Senate, House, presidential, and gubernatorial ones.

In 2008, Senator John McCain beat former President Barack Obama 53.9 percent to 44.9 percent. And, Republican Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama by a larger margin in 2012, 54.6 percent to 44 percent.

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won in some counties, including Charleston, but was far from winning the state. Donald Trump won South Carolina with an almost 15-point margin, beating Clinton 54.9 to 40.7 percent.