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)

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. Woman In California

    Willard will LOSE the GE mainly because Blacks and Hispanics AIN'T having it!

    January 6, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Chuck

    Santorum was ranked #3 for corruption while in the senate in 2006. I voted against him in PA for Bob Casey and it was one of the best votes I ever made.

    January 6, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. vet in texas

    I wonder what the GOP would say if Obama believed that the garden of eden was in Missouri. Wait until it gets closer and the book of Morman is anaylzed........should be interesting on how many people believe in Joseph Smith

    January 6, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. PJ

    I hope they can see thru Romney and how phoney he is.

    January 6, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. vbabescab

    Wow, are these people thinking.....there is only one man capable of turning this economy around....read the real facts about each candidate....and you can finds that there is ...MITT ROMNEY who can help this country move to the right direction....use your better judgment....read the real truths don't make that one vote wasted....go....go...MITT.

    January 6, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Phil

    None of the republican candidates, in my opinion, are worth voting for.

    If I had to vote republican, it would be for Newt. Romney and Santorum are both religious freaks who want to impose their views in everyone's lives. Fortunately, Bachmann isn't anywhere to be found anymore.

    Hopefully, Obama will be re-elected and I won't have to worry about this for another four years.

    January 6, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    One thing that must scare SC republican voters, is that they may no longer be uninsured if Obama wins, but Mittens promises he will repeal affordable health care, and then they don't have to pay when they show up at the emergency room.

    January 6, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Just Say No to the MittWitt

    These people who blame Obama for everything under the sun crack me up. Bush set this country back 50 years with his tax cuts for the wealthy, starting 2 wars, doubling the Medicaid prescription benefit for seniors...the list goes on and on. Obama is a miracle worker, saving us and the world from a MAJOR DEPRESSION. Bush voters are the ones to blame, not Obama.

    January 6, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Donna

    Thank you Cnn for being fair ! I use to watch Fox & I thought they were fair and balanced.. not so !! Hannity says he is a true conservative.. not so !!! he is a RIno just like the rest of them.. Its seems like Rick Perry does not have a chance with Fox and here is Rick Perry the true conservative that is the Ronald Reagan or even better than him... once again thank you !

    January 6, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Looks like the Kochs have bused in a lot of rent – a – voters to help Mittens.

    January 6, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. Just Say No to the MittWitt

    Has anyone seen Romney's soul? It's gotta be around here somewhere.

    January 6, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. DefyTheGods

    What's with John Hunstman's poll numbers? Typical of the GOP to not support the smart guy. How is it that moron like Hermain Cain and Rick Perry get so much attention, while John Huntsman sucks wind in the polls.

    January 6, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. vic , nashville ,tn

    Wait and see on January 21 -2012

    January 6, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Linda

    If Paul will not get the nomination. Obama will have my vote. Mitt is a joke and a dangerous guy!!!

    January 6, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. james

    If Paul will not get the nomination. Obama will have my vote. Mitt is a joke and a dangerous guy!!!

    January 6, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. james

    If Paul will not get the nomination. Obama will have my vote. Mitt is a joke and a dangerous one!

    January 6, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. paul

    Mitt seems a little to main stream for S.C. His middle of the road policies, his health care plan, him saying Obama is a nice guy? That won't fly in South Carolina where they still adhere to the "good ole boy" network and where they make sure that minorities of any kind have a lot of hurdles to jump before they can even vote.

    January 6, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. Jariv

    @Shawn4films – You are very wrong. Nothing is going to be safer with Ron. Romney will take care of the budget, that is what he does for living.

    January 6, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. JoeT

    Romney combined with a wingnut like Santorum for VP will be hard for dems to beat in 2012. The disaffected theocrats will come to the polls, vote, and pray for an unfortunate demise of Romney, but vote they will.

    January 6, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. michaeldangel

    nominate Romney and YOU WILL endure 4 more years of Obama....and the destruction of the US and the economies of the non-islamic world. The islamic world can be totally irresponsible because no matter their policies they keep getting western money for their blood oil. PEERY has the overall plans to prevent the above from happening. And has a proven track record of success. He is not a professional presidential candidate, but he is the only candidtae who can beat Obama. PERRY/HUNTSMAN for the win !!

    January 6, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. Liza

    This guy is funny. The other day I read his tax and economic agena. Apparently, he will make it so poor and middle class families won't have to pay taxes on capital gains. Such a nice guy! Oh, wait, I forgot...poor people and middle class people don't have any stake in capital gains! But he didn't reference rich people not paying taxes on capital gains. LOL, what a joke!!

    January 6, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. panderbear

    Republican voters are divided into three groups primarily motivated by: social and religious conservatism, Rick Santorum supporters; little to no government ideologues, Ron Paul backers; and pragmatists who just want someone who can beat President Obama, likely Mitt Romney / Newt Gingrich voters. South Carolina will show us just how committed the first two groups are. If they stand firm then the Republicans are headed for a brokered convention. If not, it will all be over but the shouting by the end of the month and a Romney vs Obama, 1% vs the 99%, general election will have begun. http://panderingpoliticians.blogspot.com/2012/01/legacy-of-reaganomics.html

    January 6, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. michelle

    lol @ the Republican field...=)

    January 6, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    Further proof that the TEA Party is not about PRINCIPLE, but POLITICS as usual.....They will support the biggest flip flopper since Flipper.

    January 6, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. korkea aika

    Too bad if this show winds down early. Then all that will be left to do is watch Mittsy run around in a circle like the Energizer Bunny

    January 6, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7