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. Mordrud

    You people who think Romney can beat Obama are loopy. That's why the media ordained him the GOP nomination. He's no threat. If he was he would have won the nomination last time and beat him then. Romney will not bring conservatives to the polls and without them, the GOP will get crushed.

    January 6, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Robert

    If I believed in god, I'd beg him to help us all from the republicans.

    January 6, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. christian

    how can you say this is a legit poll?

    No one under 50 polled..50!!! do you really think people who are 18-49 dont count?

    No liberals or moderates polled... SC is an open primary you don't register for a party! you have to think they will vote

    Last look at the Independents they polled couldnt be more than like 10 with a +/-8 margin of error! and doesnt even affect the % of 2 of the candidates. Most noted by Paul 12% republican and 18% independent and a Total of 12%...

    January 6, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. teepee

    with Romney as president, there will be more poor white people in this nation than you can imagine...

    January 6, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Robert

    @yoshi South Carolina smart? Probably as smart as Mississippi.

    January 6, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Dixie AZ

    Read the article on Santorum on the front page of the New York Times. Very enlightening.

    January 6, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. nickels11

    @Mike – the fact you exclude Romney as being able to beat Obama simply based on the fact he is a mormon shows very little intelligence. I hope you don't vote and make all life decisions based on someones race, religion, gender....so sad.

    I would think a country like the US would have citizens that are able to make more educated decisions beyond blanket statements like that....oh wait there are, just as the people in Iowa, NH, and apparently SC are showing.

    January 6, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. Mordrud

    Also, Use your brains South Carolina. Do we want a president who wears magic underwear? Seriously? We'd be the laughing stock of the world.

    January 6, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Common Sense

    It's going to be a battle between the lesser of two evils in 2012. Mitt Romney won't win though, he's even more unreliable than Obama with all this flip-flopping he's done. Out of two compulsive liars, Obama lies less. The only candidates with backbones are Paul, Huntsman, and Johnson, but they're all too honest to have a chance at being the Republican nominee. Politics just isn't the place to find integrity.

    January 6, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. JohnRJ08

    These articles about how Rick Santorum's numbers are "soaring" are ridiculous. As soon as the Republican primaries get out of the Bible Belt, Santorum's numbers will evaporate. He has zero appeal to most of the country.

    January 6, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Todd C

    There were under 50s polled, just not enough to break them out into their own category with confidence. They talked to 485 voters. Based on the margins of error reported, about 100 were under 50 and the rest 50+. There are two reasons for this small youth sample size: 1. Cell phones were probably not included, and 2. they only included "likely Republican voters".

    January 6, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Jman

    My advice to Ron Paul supporters, don't waste your time on these extremely biased and establishment controlled media outlets. I've found myself coming to CNN to look at people's political views less and less, and I figure you all are doing the same. One love. J

    January 6, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Phange

    Romney's surge in South Carolina is due to two things – one, Newt Gingrich's collapse in the polls and loss of support. Two – Rick Santorum's combination of a complete lack of campaign funds and relatively controversial extreme social conservatism being put under the limelight. The bottom line is that Mitt Romney is the easiest candidate to vote for – he doesn't have a lot of skeletons in his closet, he's intelligent, and he has enough debate skills and moderate support to give him a decent chance of winning in November. Newt's, and by proxy, Santorum's support came from knee-jerk voters who initially supported them until they heard their actual views and voting history. Despite being a candidate of last resort for some voters, Romney is a "safe" pick by all accounts and that is why he has momentum.

    January 6, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Joe

    Why do so many thing Romney will beat Obama. I personally think NO one will beat Obama. The only one who has a chance is Ron Paul but he has been blasted by the media and Donald Trump will run 3rd party if Dr Paul gets the GOP nomination almost guaranteeing a victory for Obama.

    January 6, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. Ramiro Gonzalez

    What a bunch of backwoods voters we have in this country, who cares if he is Mormon, evangelical, Muslim or Atheist, what are we a third world country, no better than Iran or Afganistan? MORONS IS A GREAT NAME FOR THOSE WHO VOTE BASED ON RELIGION!

    January 6, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Jeremy Potter

    This process of choosing a candidate amongst a small chosen group is insane! Little worthless states back east and all the voters being haggard old people over 50? The only thing that will fix this country now is a revolution.

    January 6, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. GCV

    With Romney as president, there will be more rich corporation people in this nation than you can imagine... (The real people will be poorer)

    January 6, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Saboth

    Must be a lot of corporations in SC. They love his stance of : "Corporations are people too!" Too bad gays aren't people according to him and Santorum.

    January 6, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. john oneil

    why is cnn covering the race for second place? if obama is not relected the u.s. is still going to be at a stand still and the gap between partys will olny get worse. do the right thing and vote for who is going to change things not just cause it your party it should be who the best for your coutry! USA USA USA

    January 6, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Shawn4films

    Come on SC don't freedom down. Don't buy into the idea that Romney will change anything Obama is doing. If you pick Romney or any other mainstream candidate then we will have four more years of Obama. Four more years of wasting trillions of dollars on wars we dont need. If we pick Paul America will finally begin to be safe from the threat of blowback from dozens of nations. We will regain our financial standing because trillions of dollars can stay here in the US instead of going to building, bombing, rebuilding, bombing other nations. Don't let America down, Paul is our last chance to end the American outrageousnessism.

    January 6, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. westward

    Mitt Romney on the ticket + the daily slap in the face the Republican congress has given America for the past 3 years = A straight Democratic vote all the way down through state candidates.

    January 6, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Jariv

    Romney! Romney! Romney !!!! President Romney will be the best. Guaranteed by Seal of Authenticity. The People's president.

    January 6, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. peelshome

    I spent time as a Mormon in North Carolina. If folks are considering Romney in S.C. then some real progress has been made since then. Many ministers in my time were actively spreading disinformation to their congregations on a regular basis – I guess they aren't as influential as they used to be. I think it comes from people actually KNOWING some Mormons to contrast what they have heard with what they see and experience.

    January 6, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. DSBsky

    Romney is such a lieing POS. The guy flips what side he's on at least three times a year mandatory. He also NEVER knows anything AT ALL. If this moron gets elected we are all screwed. If that's not enough he's just an idiot. I mean literally the guy is a moron. You can tell when he talks he lacks the tact a president should have, the resolve a person with spine should have and any sense of honesty what so ever. The guy always picks what best suits him at the moment. You can NOT count on Romney, he will screw us to get what he wants like he always does... Ron Paul 2012!! For the love of God vote Ron Paul.

    January 6, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. Shel

    CNN should just get it over with and offically endorse Mitt Romney.

    January 6, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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