WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's job approval may be eroding nationwide, but in South Carolina, a state he lost in 2008, a new poll gives him higher numbers than the state's two Republican senators.
Nearly 48 percent of adults in the Palmetto State approve of Obama's performance as president, a Winthrop University poll found. In contrast, 39.4 percent of those surveyed approve of the job Sen. Lindsey Graham is doing, while 42.6 percent approve of Sen. Jim DeMint — one of Obama's harshest critics.
Nationwide, 51 percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance as president and 43 percent disapprove, the Gallup daily tracking poll showed Wednesday.
"I like the way he handles himself," said Jerald Bailey, a retired real estate appraiser in North Augusta, S.C., said of Obama. "I think he's doing a really great job. Our country is much better represented and has more esteem in the world than it used to."
Graham's aides ridiculed the poll results, noting that he was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2008, defeating his Democratic opponent with 58 percent of the vote.
"President Obama is losing support across the country," said Kevin Bishop, a Graham spokesman. "This poll is not even remotely close to accurate."
DeMint, who's up for re-election this year, declined to comment on the poll results.
Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop political science professor who oversaw the poll, cautioned against putting too much weight on the comparison between Obama and the two senators.
Obama has higher name recognition than Graham or DeMint do, which partially contributes to his better showing, Huffmon said.
Additionally, Obama's negative ratings in the Winthrop poll are considerably higher: 40 percent of South Carolinians disapprove of Obama's handling of his job, compared with 31.8 percent who disapprove of Graham's and 28.3 percent who disapprove of DeMint's.
Donna Oliver, an African-American Democrat who lives in Columbia, said she voted for Obama, but she's been disappointed by his performance as president.
"Everything's gotten worse under Obama," Oliver told McClatchy. "I don't think he's doing a good job. As an African-American, I thought he would have made a difference for the blacks, but he hasn't."
(Gina Smith of The State contributed to this article from Columbia, S.C.)