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. Truth

    I call BS, these polls are put together by the mainstream media and they lie. I dont know too many people that are supporting Mitt. Maybe it is the people who i know but it doesnt make sense.

    January 6, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Guest

    Doesn't matter – Obama has it and will court the Dr. Paul supporters to clinch it since the GOP turned their back on them. We will have at least 2-4 years of more gridlock unless something is done now. If we follow the current path we will look like the Greeks and Italians except we will be pushing wheelbarrows.

    January 6, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. God, you people are dumb.

    You people just eat this stuff up, don't you? PLEASE realize how badly your intelligence is being insulted by the media. NONE of these people are qualified to run the country, and NONE are capable of being elected. THEY know it, CNN knows it, yet they serve this to you as news, and you buy it. PLEASE wake up, guys. Get yourselves a Twitter account. See the real world for the 1st time in your lives.

    January 6, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Guest

    Doesn't matter – Obama has it and will court the Dr. Paul supporters to clinch it since the GOP turned their back on them. We will have at least 2-4 years of more gridlock unless something is done now.

    January 6, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Oldfan

    We don't want him!

    January 6, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Furious Styles

    A long as he doesn't fly off to Argentina with chasing tan lines, he's alright with me.

    January 6, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Guest

    Polls don't matter – Obama has it.

    January 6, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. WhereIsPalin

    "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."

    Good. Then we can stop all this other nonsense and wait for the election this fall.

    January 6, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. ditty1991

    Ron paul is the only one who wants to bring our troops home, mind our own business and allow free trade with all nations,
    end the federal reserve bank (its not federal at all its a private central bank), they do nothing but inflate our dollar and give money away to their buddies.
    end the civil rights act (people have the right to discriminate so long as it doesnt infringe on the persons life/liberty. not letting a black man into your home/shop or discriminating against him is morally wrong but should be ok by law because of the 1st amendment). the jim crow laws were the problem during the civil rights movement. it forced stores/facilities to segregated.
    end the war on drugs and let each state decide drug laws just like alcohol is. the govt should not decide what you can and cant put into your own body. plus it will bankrupt the drug cartels thus drastically reducing drug related boarder violence.

    January 6, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. googiebaba

    I know this is totally besides the point, but what is going on in that picture? Is Romney wearing one arm of a jacket backwards? Or is that a blanket?

    January 6, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Bob Smith

    I am an active, dedicated Mormon, and I could never vote for Mitt Romney. He cares nothing about the poor people in this country, and his policies will only further enrich the already-wealthy. I voted for President Obama in 2008 and will proudly vote for him again in 2012. I sincerely hope the Democrats hold onto the Senate and retake the House, so the 'party of no' will be unable to stop progress.

    January 6, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Why won't anyone run against BHO?!?!?!

    Here's the bad news: He's a Republican.
    Here's the good-ish news: Since the DNC is unwilling to run a legitimate candidate against the President, Romney's the only hope of getting this country back from this incompetent failure of a Democratic President.

    January 6, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Why won't anyone run against BHO?!?!?!

    THE DNC owes it to America for the last four years of abject failure to run a legitimate candidate against our current President.

    January 6, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  14. Todd C

    The most amazing takeaway from the poll is that they called over 1,500 people, less than 500 are considered likely Republican voters, and of those 500, only about 100 were under the age of 50! That spells bad, bad news for the GOP in South Carolina.

    January 6, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Guest

    Polls are a waste of time until the primary is over – I want to know why people voted a certain way not how they think they are going to vote – we know there are a lot of people undecided.

    January 6, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. JT

    Well Romney has the nomination through a variety of scenarios. If he wins South Carolina its a knock out. If he wins Florida its over shortly thereafter. If this makes it to Super Tuesday, Romney wins the moderate states (and Virginia which was ceded to him) and its over.

    January 6, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. sunny lovetts

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Ron Paul 2012!!!!
    This country is full of mindless TV drones.

    January 6, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. njm

    hutsman vs. obama –> huntsman(best candidate in my opinion) gets my vote no question
    paul vs. obama –> i'm going with paul since he is probably a "change we can believe in"

    romney vs. obama OR santorum vs obama - as much as i don't want to I'm going obama all the way..
    romney/santorum are bs artists and i'm having a hard time believing them

    January 6, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. bilk7

    If Romney somehow wins SC, it's over.....and Obama will win a second term!!!

    January 6, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. AdamofMadison

    Yeah, good old Romney...the guy who strapped his Irish Setter to the top of his station wagon for a 12 hour drive to Canada...poor dog was so frigtened he got diahrrhea and crapped all over the car, so Romey pulls over to a gas station, gets a hose and hoses down the car (and does nothing for or with the dog) and continues on his drive. Is this a man you want to see in the White House?

    Then good old Santorum..guy who, when his wife had stillborn baby 26 weeks early, took the dead fetus home to his kids (the youngest of which was 2 years old) and had them hold and "love" the fetus for 24 hours–during which they took the fetus for a ride to grandma's house to love it over there–before burying it.

    Which is your choice?

    January 6, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Arcadian

    Shame CNN – keepin' you honest is truly a full time job. This poll only sampled (or tallied) respondents who were over 50yo. This most critical parameter is never mentioned in the body of the article. The most marginalized candidate in this regard is unquestionably congressman Ron Paul – but I suspect you already knew that.

    January 6, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Ron

    When 3 out of 4 people voted against you.... you did not win!

    January 6, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Thomas

    In the General election , South Carolina wont vote for a politician who's five sons avoided military service .

    Nor will Virginia . Robert E Lee would roll over in his grave !

    January 6, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. Why won't anyone run against BHO?!?!?!

    If Hillary actually cared about the good of the country and not the good of the Clinton legacy, she'd leave the State Dept. and take Obama apart in a legitimate democratic primary. Hillary would destroy this failure now that the "hope and changers" know what they elected.

    January 6, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Why won't anyone run against BHO?!?!?!

    Romney was always the only legitimate Republican contender in 2012. Let's get this over with and focus on the true mess of this election season: The fact that the DNC refuses to run a legitimate candidate against Obama, in spite of him having been dreadful for America.

    January 6, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
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