COLUMBIA, SC – A new poll released today finds that since the start of the pandemic, one in three South Carolinians struggle to pay their utility bills, a problem most say has been exacerbated by the  pandemic. The poll was commissioned by Conservation Voters of South Carolina as part of the Connected in Crisis campaign – a collaborative effort that seeks to shine a spotlight on the intersection of the coronavirus pandemic, economic insecurity, and utility bills. The poll was conducted by Nexus Polling between November 10-17.

“Economic disparities are magnified in times of crisis. Across South Carolina people are struggling to make ends meet, while caring for their families.” said Ann Warner CEO, Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network . “Add to that the compounding and disproportionate health and economic impacts of the pandemic on Black, Brown, and other vulnerable communities, it is clear that something must be done now to alleviate the economic burden of ever-growing utility bills.”

The poll paints a disturbing picture of the economic toll that the pandemic has had on South Carolina families – particularly among those who already face disproportionate economic challenges. More than seven in 10 (72%) of those who reported already having difficulty meeting ends meet said the pandemic has made paying their utility bills even more difficult than before. The percentage of voters who struggled to pay their utility bills was observed to be especially high among the following groups when compared to other groups:

  • multi-generational (66%) compared to single generation (24%) households
  • single-parent households (51%) compared to multi-parent (30%) households
  • Black (45%) households compared to white households (26%)
  • Low income (41%) households compared to middle income (25%) or high income (23%) households

Given the increased economic stress South Carolinians are experiencing, there is very high support in the Palmetto State for alleviating the financial burden on struggling ratepayers across all demographic and income levels.

“South Carolinians are struggling and need immediate relief from rising energy bills,” said John Tynan, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “Our state leaders must act now to stop bills from piling up while also providing opportunities for ratepayers to reduce their bills over time through proven efficiency, weatherization, and clean energy programs.”

There is strong support for addressing short-term utility bill challenges by waiving late fees for customers who have missed bills during the pandemic (91%), preventing utility companies from disconnecting water and power during the pandemic (87%), and either state assistance with (84%) or utilities forgiving debt (59%) accumulated since the start of the pandemic.

To reduce the long-term impact of high energy bills, more than eight in 10 (82%) South Carolina voters expressed interest in programs to lower their bills through energy efficiency programs, such as the state providing credits and rebates for energy efficiency and weatherization improvements. There was also strong support for expanding clean and renewable energy (78%) across the state, with 71% supporting a transition to a 100% clean energy economy in South Carolina by 2050, citing environmental benefits and cost savings as the top benefits to increasing South Carolina’s clean energy production.

For more detail on the poll results, please see the poll toplines.

Nexus Polling, in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, conducted a representative survey of 532 registered voters in South Carolina on November 10-17, 2020. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 4.4% at the 95% confidence level.

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