CNN/Time Poll: Romney and Santorum soar in South Carolina
January 6th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
3 years ago

CNN/Time Poll: Romney and Santorum soar in South Carolina

(CNN) - Mitt Romney's numbers in South Carolina are surging, and he now has a solid lead over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a new survey of likely GOP primary voters in the Palmetto state.

And a CNN/Time/ORC International poll released Friday also indicates that former Sen. Rick Santorum's support in South Carolina has soared, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's numbers have nose-dived.

Full results (pdf)

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South Carolina holds the first in the South contest in the race for the nomination, with its January 21 contest coming 11 days after the New Hampshire primary. Since 1980, when the state switched from a caucus system to a primary, the winner of the South Carolina GOP primary has always gone on to win the Republican nomination.

According to the poll, 37% of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina say they are currently backing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is making his second bid for the White House. Romney has nearly doubled his support from CNN's last survey in the Palmetto State, which was conducted early last month. The new poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, after Romney's eight-vote victory over Santorum in Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses.

Santorum and Gingrich are battling for second place, with Santorum at 19% and Gingrich at 18%. But they appear to be going in opposite directions, with Santorum's support up 15 points from last month and Gingrich down 25 points from early December. Gingrich, once the front-runner in Iowa and in national polling, finished fourth in the Iowa caucus results.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is making his third run for the White House, has doubled his support, from 6% to 12%. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who may be making a last stand in South Carolina, has the backing of 5% of likely primary voters, down three points from last month. Perry had a disappointing fifth-place finish in the caucuses.

Former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is campaigning almost exclusively in New Hampshire, is at 1%. The poll also indicates that 4% of likely GOP primary voters are unsure of who they're backing.

So what's behind Romney's surge in South Carolina?

"As in New Hampshire, Romney benefits from an open primary," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "There is no party registration in South Carolina, so all registered voters can participate in the GOP primary on January 21. Romney does better among self-described independents than among voters who call themselves Republicans. But that support comes with a catch - independents are the voters who are most likely to say that they could change their minds."

The poll indicates an education divide, with Romney doing better among college graduates than among voters with no college degree - a group that is often considered synonymous with "blue collar" voters.

But again, that may indicate a bit of trouble for Romney, since college grads are more likely to say that they have not made up their minds.

"It's the same story among women," adds Holland. "Romney does better among women than men, but women are more likely to say that they might change their minds. It all adds up to widespread support for the former Massachusetts governor, but also indicates that Romney's support may be 'softer' than the bloc who currently supports Santorum, Gingrich or Paul."
Conservatives come in many flavors in South Carolina and that may also affect Romney's chances to win in the Palmetto State. Voters who are both born-again Christians and tea party supporters are least likely to support Romney, but he still tops the rest of the field with 31% support. He does a little better (36%) among Tea Party voters who are not born-again, and better still (41%) among born-again Christians who do not support the tea party, again topping all other candidates.

"That indicates that the race in South Carolina may be decided by economic factors and views of government rather than the religious and cultural issues that have dominated the state's primaries in the past. Not surprisingly, Romney does best among likely voters who are neither born-again nor supporters of the tea party - consistent with his bloc of support among self-described independents," adds Holland.

As always, keep in mind that a poll taken this far in advance of a primary is not a prediction of what will happen. Voters may be influenced by the New Hampshire primary on January 10 and with roughly half still not definite about who they will support, there is a lot of time for a lot of movement to take place among South Carolina voters.

The poll was conducted for CNN and Time magazine on January 4-5 by ORC International, with 485 South Carolina voters who are likely to vote in the Republican primary questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also see:

Huntsman hits Romney ahead of N.H. primary


Boston Globe backs Huntsman


FIRST ON CNN: Santorum to make large ad buy in South Carolina

Santorum tangles with Gingrich, same-sex marriage supporters

McCain courting former South Carolina backers for Romney

soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. maggie

    The Gingrich pitch in New Hampshire includes his usual collection of wild allegations against President Obama and the Democrats but the most prevalent theme of his campaign so far is his tendency toward egomania: his boast last month that he was “by a big margin the front-runner,” his likening of his exclusion from the Virginia ballot to Pearl Harbor, and his pride in his $60,000 speaking fees. Evidently, the people of Plymouth, N.H., didn’t realize how lucky they were to hear Gingrich for free, because there were empty seats in the old train depot when he presented his auto-hagiography this week. I’m going to enjoy watching him self-destruct and destroy his party with him.

    January 6, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. westward

    Take it to the bank – SC will not be voting for Mitt Romney. CNN needs to put some feet down on SC instead of trying to make blanket statements based on one poll.

    January 6, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. v_mag

    Romney does worst among people who have a brain. Fortunately for him, there are very few of those in South Carolina, as evidenced by the governor they elected.

    January 6, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Tyler1982

    I hope they realize if Romney gets the nomination he won't beat Obama...Romney is more of the same old same old, lying, politician.

    Americans really need to wake up to this and stop voting for these corrupt bureaucrats. It'll only lead to more war, more poverty, more freedoms lost.

    January 6, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Brian

    so it looks like Romney will sweep the first 3 states of the primary....it's a shame that such an eventful and fun primary season will end with a whimper

    January 6, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. MMinton

    As a moderate Massachusetts Democrat, I'm glad to see our old friend Mitt appears like he is going to get the GOP nomination. I can tell everyone from experience (despite all the posturing to the contrary) there is really not that much of a difference between Mitt and Obama. While I will vote again for Obama (a vote against the GOP),if Mitt won it would be kind of like wanting to eat at MacDonald’s but winding up at Burger King, six of one half a dozen of the other. It’s fun to watch all the Contortions though!!!!

    January 6, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Chuck

    This result was predetermined. Romney is the establishment favorite so he will win the primaries. Also, what happened to those missing votes in Iowa? Why did it take until 4am to count a relatively small number of votes.

    January 6, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. eddieb

    jon huntsman is the man to vote for if they want to beat obama

    January 6, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    The first ad up in South Carolina reminding voters that Willard is a mormon will destroy him. He is going to get clobbered in South Carolina even with his Nikki Haley endorsement. I'm a Ny'er who lives in Virginia, and I can tell you this much that I know about southern evangelical christians; they believe mormonism is a cult. Frankly, I agree with them. Everytime I think of Willard, Warren Jeffs and David Koresh come to mind, then the fact that he's a pathological flip-flopper.

    January 6, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. blablah

    Romney is a fool. Anybody that believes the silly religious nonsense is a fool, and not qualified to be a president.

    January 6, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    Icarus soared too and we all know what happened to him!

    January 6, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. BeverlyNC

    All these polls are showing you is which Republican is the "least of the worst" to the Republican base. Republicans have no qualified, credible, genuine people able to be President. They are so full of hate, so bigoted against anyone who is not white, rich and "Christian", not one could actually represent the best interests of ALL Americans as Presidents do. Their members of Congress cannot even put the People first. Repulicans have betrayed America by blocking every effort for job creation, economic recovery and anything and everything President Obama says or does. They are the creators of the debt situation with 2 fraudulent unpaid for wars, tax cuts for millionaires, and a drug program for seniors that was created purely to profit the big insurance companies. That is the core of our debt, yet when it came time to raise the debt ceiling to cover paying for these items back in August, Republicans refused and ended up causing our credit rating around the world to be downgraded. Why? Just to defy President Obama. Didn't matter they were destroying our economy, our credit score, or hurting the People. Republicans' only goal is to "destroy Obama" as Senate Republican Leader McConnell has stated over and over publically – and you wonder why Congress has gotten nothing done – look to the Republicans who would rather destroy America and the People than let President Obama implement real valid solutions to restore our nation. That's not leadership. It's called treason. Out with all Republicans in 2012 so We the People can have our country back and real leaders who put us and our recovery first.

    January 6, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. TruthHurts

    Romney is a MORMON who is for abortions, carbon tax, open borders, amnesty for illeagals, gun control, wrote Obamacare and made his money by outsourcing American jobs...we might as well just keep Omamba

    January 6, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. Dom

    I just wish the media would stop trying to decide who should be running for President. The "polls" that they refer to are always innaccurate, and Romney has had more coverage than anyone. I'm not a Ron Paul "supporter" but the media definitely chooses who to talk about in the GOP field, which is pretty BS. Just report their ideas and allow the voters to do their jobs, which is research and vote.

    January 6, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. D M

    Another flawed poll.

    100% 50 yrs old and older (50% of under 50 y/o went for Ron Paul in Iowa)
    0% Moderate or Liberal (A strong base for Dr Paul - this will win the general election)

    January 6, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Independent jim

    American republican voters will support Romney.. they, just like democrat voters dont want a religious kook like Santorum or Perry trying to impose a theocracy on America

    January 6, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. jack white

    GO SANTORUM! A return to a sense of morality, common sense, manufacturing and family values! God Bless America!

    January 6, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. james

    This media ...

    January 6, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. TheTraveler

    I'm sure the tobacco corporations love him there ...

    January 6, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. Bryan

    I live in NC, when do I get to cast my vote for my reblican choice?

    January 6, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. felix

    It's over folks. Mittens is the best that the GOP could get to pit against a vulnerable President.

    January 6, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. Jake56

    Well seems like Romney's pretty much got the Republican nomination... So who will the tea partiers vote for in the general election?

    January 6, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. TooClose2DC

    They had this story as "Breaking News". The completion of a poll is NOT breaking news. Especially if the poll is being conducted by the reporting news agency! Furthermore, the front runner having a lead is NOT breaking news. CNN, get real will ya?

    January 6, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Jim Colyer

    Mitt Romney can beat Obama.

    January 6, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Phil39

    Too funny; republican evangelicals who went on for decades about how mormonism is blatantly anti-christian and an enemy of their God, will now be lining up in droves to vote for Romney, simply because they have been told to do so by Fox News and the like. Guess we know who their "God" really is, no?

    January 6, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
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