CNN/Time Poll: Romney and Santorum soar in South Carolina
January 6th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
2 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. Greenspam

    If Romney is the candidate, why would people choose Romney instead of Obama. They are both liberals.

    January 6, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Joe Voter

    I want to encourage all sensible folks to cast their vote for Rick Santorum (or anyone but Mitt Romney). Romney is the only GOP candidate with a hope of defeating Obama, so to guarantee Obama's re-election, let's ensure the GOP candidate is Rick Santorum.

    January 6, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. TheFatherofLies

    I'll take Mitt over any of those contesting save for the doomed Huntsman.

    January 6, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Mordrud

    uh...no he can't. There is no real difference between the two so why will Republicans even go to the polls in Nov.? I know if my choice is Obama and Romney I'm staying home. They are two peas in a pod. Super liberal Republican. Moderate Democrat. Some choice. At least Ron Paul would be an interesting choice or Newt Gingerich. Romney brings nothing new.

    January 6, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. Mike

    A Mormon will not beat Obama. Period.

    January 6, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Joel

    Mitt Romney was the blueprint for Obama.

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. dvbeck@msn.com

    It'll be all Romney from here on out. One reason why – he's the only Republican in the field who can beat Obama. And he will beat Obama.

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. Ms

    @ Jim Colyer

    No he can't.

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. marc

    I really don't think anyone is going to beat Obama unless they hack the election like GOPers did in 2004 and 2008.

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. nickels11

    Romney is clearly the smartest and most qualified GOP candidate and it seems people are starting to fully realize this. I want a President that I consider capable of solving complex problems facing this country's economy...and it is looking like Romney is the best fit for that.

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. marc

    EDIT: 2002 and 2004*********************

    January 6, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Dani Torres

    Wow look at the FULL results... Only people over the age of 50 were polled. Bias much CNN??

    January 6, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. JohnT

    Mitt Romney is easily the best choice. Come on folks, you think anybody else can REALLY beat Obama?

    January 6, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. yoshi

    South Carolina is smart to get behind Mitt – he's the guy who can beat Obama AND fix the economy. The GOP needs to get behind him so he can save money to campaign against Obama. Look at how well organized his campaign is – the rest of the people in the field are jokes, Gingrich is a professional politician, Santorum is an amateur and Ron Paul is loopy. The rest of the country needs to now get behind Mitt – he is a sharp dude who can make the right things happen.

    January 6, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. bettyboop33

    Rick Santorum will not win the nomination because he is a Christian religious extremist.

    January 6, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Real American

    As an independent I will choose OBAMA over ROMNEY!!!!!! Atleast OBAMA is less EVIL when i compare both.

    January 6, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. Lisa

    Mitt Romney can not beat Obama. Santorum isn't even on the ballot in VA, TN or DC. How is that for running a joke of a campaign. Santorum is a religious nut that wants to mold everyone into his perverse value system. No thanks.

    January 6, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. wial

    Is Romney the latest anti-Romney? Weird!

    January 6, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. BigTBone

    Now that Nikki has angered the already unstable TP base here, watch her 36% approval drop inversely to Mitt's rise. They don't like him cuz he's a yankee and a flip-flopper- but mostly for his interpretation of Jeebus. I am bewildered again to see the complete idiocy on full display in this state, but those who like Jimmy DeMented will probably be pushing for Santorum or Perry. They love guns and fightin' too so Ron P's Iran stance won't play here. I saw a young 'christian' ladyfriend today post something about supporting Newt and it floored me. If you don't like BO that's fine. But anyone other than Huntsman is completely irrelevant and not worthy of the presidency.

    January 6, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Jeremy Potter

    why do these worthless little states get to decide who I get to vote on ???? Iowa? South Carolina? Really. Why Don't I have a say? LAME!

    January 6, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Vigla

    yoshi, Republicans (who destroyed our economy) should be entrusted to fix it? Yeah, thanks but NO thanks...

    January 6, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. The Bodacious

    I am not sure I want a president named Mitt.

    January 6, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Palin: Like Coulter ... Minus the Manparts

    Hey Wiilard! How's that Boston Globe endorsement workin' out for ya? What do they know that the rest of the country will soon find out about all the lies you've been telling about your "outstanding record" as governor? NOT!!!

    January 6, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Nope

    Mitt Romney will get the nomination but lose to Obama in the General election because the evangelicals and the Tea Bags don't support him. They've been looking for anybody but him- that's why everybody else has surged and then dropped and he's remained steady. The extremists don't like him because he's too normal and they are going to be all disillusioned and won't show up at the polls in the general election just like in 2004 when Bush was stinking up the place and still barely beat Kerry. The "anybody but that guy" demographic isn't large enough to unseat a sitting president.

    January 6, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Ah, yes. The old throw out some polls and convince each other that the "flavor of the week" is soaring, until "plop" down they go. Meanwhile, all this accomplishes is that Mitt Romney continues to slide into first still hanging on to his 25%. Reading the ticker any given day ought to reinforce Mitts non surge. After awhile, folks tune out. Believe me, tuning out Romney isn't all that difficult, no matter how many non news articles (or how many different shirts he wears) are thrown out for the public to salivate over. He'll keep his 25%. Beyond that ..... ?

    January 6, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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