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. DoNotWorry

    A vote for Romney is a vote for China.

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

    Look at the actual poll results. No one under 50 years old was survey. How is that an accurate representation? This is a totally biased poll. I am shocked that CNN would mislead readers like this (sarcasm).

    January 6, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. JoeT

    Corporations are people.
    Money is speech.
    Love is hate.
    War is peace.

    January 6, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. DoNotWorry

    Mentioning Romney and C.H.I.N.A. in the same post get moderation?????

    January 6, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Go Romney 2012!

    Romney is the candidate with the best skills and expertise to get our country back on track again.

    January 6, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Jess Sayin

    I can understand those who don't like Romney's politics...but to discredit him on his religion is simply bigotry. That has no place in America 2012.

    January 6, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. HarvardLaw92

    @Bryan – the NC Republican primary is May 8th

    January 6, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. erich

    if romney is the gop candidate it won't be one side of the coin vs the other; it'll be the top of the same side vs the bottom half. no difference if record matters over rhetoric, between romney and obama...ron paul 201 !

    January 6, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. lib

    I really cannot understand how Ron Paul is not exploding and growing even more then he already is. I just want you to sit and listen to the man talk about ALL of the issues. The guy is dead on, he has never flip flopped on a thing except for the death penalty. It's time for America to be come the free thinking, free society that it should be.

    January 6, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Dan5404

    Neither Romney or Santorum can beat Obama, but I predict a last minute surge for Santorum and a softening of Romney support in SC.

    January 6, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Watching from Canada

    I am watching your politics with great interest from here in Canada. Hello neighbours! If I could vote there, I would vote for Romney. He's the best choice.

    January 6, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  12. Fourleaf Tayback

    All of our GOP candidates are far better choices for President than Obama and his actual record of misery. Romney would be a great President and I am sure ready for a change.

    January 6, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. independant

    RON PAUL !!! People take your right back !!!! Change is a good thing do not be afraid of it.

    January 6, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. Dan Goon

    Baaah, Baaah, little sheep. The media has spoken so follow the leader. This country is the funniest spectacle of all time. Every four years people really think that voting for a pre-selected crony will help fix this evil country. Best part, every 4 years it gets worse regardless of donkey or elephant and the bloggers sling mud and blame never realizing they are Einstein's definition of insanity.

    January 6, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. JT

    If Romney wins South Carolina this is over period.

    January 6, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. buckthorn

    "Surge": the most overused word in the mass media today. Followed by "trending".

    January 6, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  17. 66Biker

    Zippy the Pinhead for President!

    January 6, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. Johnny

    This will be the first time I have voted Republican in a Presidential election since 1988. Romney is it.

    January 6, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. Steelstrings

    POLL: CNN continues to try and sell us on who they want for the GOP favorite even though 75% of Republicans don't want him.

    January 6, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. Zen

    You are all being brainwashed by the media. This is not real news. It's staged. They are all actors. Turn off the T.V.

    January 6, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. Saboth

    @Jariv Yeah, Romney takes care of the budget, because he sure doesn't give a crap about all the little people beneath him and his 1% ilk (you know...those filthy peons called Americans). All he cares about is getting taxes off his rich buddies and himself. He probably sees becoming President as a financial investment for himself.

    January 6, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Ricky Bobby

    CNN should do a poll on the number of people who will base their decision on religious affiliation. It's funny how our perceptions of someone are colored so much by what we think/believe, rather than what we can see if we choose to look. Romney is an excellent candidate.

    January 6, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  23. JMissal

    ATTENTION: Look at the pdf with the FULL RESULTS. CNN polled only people 50 and older....totally unreliable and does not account for the under 50 crowd who makes up the majority of the voting population. And are predominately Ron Paul voters.

    Great job on your bias CNN.

    January 6, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. Justin

    Anyone realize that CNN and FOX and every other MSM poll ever posted is BIASED AND FLAWED!!!??? Stop buying their lies!

    This poll does not even come close to representing the state.

    ALL over 50
    ALL Republican
    No Low City

    See?

    January 6, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Midloo

    Well... lots of luck to Republicans.

    January 6, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
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