Polls: South Carolina primary tightening hours before crucial debate
January 19th, 2012
07:55 AM ET
2 years ago

Polls: South Carolina primary tightening hours before crucial debate

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – With hours to go until the final GOP presidential debate before the Palmetto State's crucial Republican primary, two new polls indicate that Mitt Romney's lead over Newt Gingrich is shrinking.

According to a Politico survey released Thursday morning, 37% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters say they are backing Romney, with 30% supporting Gingrich. The poll indicates Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 11%, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 10%, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 4% and 8% undecided.

Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Southern Republican Presidential Debate hosted by John King and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the South Carolina primary, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.

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The poll was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, after Monday night's presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Most pundits agree that Gingrich had a strong performance at the debate. At the same showdown, Romney came under attack by his rivals for hedging on whether he would release his tax returns.

The five major GOP candidates face off again Thursday night at the CNN/Southern Republican Presidential Debate at the North Charleston Coliseum. It's the final showdown for the candidates before Saturday's primary, the third contest in the primary and caucus calendar.

Another new poll released Thursday morning also indicates that Romney's lead in the Palmetto State over Gingrich and the rest of the field is shrinking. According to an NBC News/Marist survey, Romney has the support of 34% of likely primary voters in South Carolina, with Gingrich at 24%, Paul at 16%, Santorum at 14% and Perry at 4%.

The NBC News/Marist poll was conducted half before and half after Monday night's debate. Romney had a 15 point lead over Gingrich (37%-22%) after the first night of the poll, but just a 5 point advantage over Gingrich (31%-26%) when looking at only Tuesday's results from the survey.

Both new surveys were released one day after a CNN/Time/ORC International poll that indicated 33% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters are backing Romney, with 23% supporting Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor's 10 point advantage over the former House speaker was down from a 19 point lead two weeks ago.

According to the Politico survey, when voters were asked to volunteer the name of the candidate they plan to vote for without being prompted by any list to choose from, Romney's lead over Gingrich slips to 31-29. And among those who say they will "definitely" support their candidate of choice, the two are essentially tied, with Romney at 23% and Gingrich at 22%.

The Politico poll was conducted Jan. 17-18, with 600 likely South Carolina GOP primary voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

The NBC News/Marist Poll was conducted Jan. 16-17, with 684 likely primary voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for each individual night of the poll.

The CNN/Time poll was conducted by ORC International from January 13-17, with 505 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.

Also see:

Christie to Romney: release tax info 'sooner rather than later'

Perry defends controversial comment on Turkey

Obama campaign makes first moves toward major ad buys

Romney ahead in Ohio; neck and neck with Obama in match-up


Filed under: 2012 • Polls • South Carolina
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Debby

    If Gingrich wins SC and is the nominee I and alot others as independents will not be voting period. Obama may be inexperienced, but he is NOT a dictator like this Gingrich would be.

    January 19, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  2. David

    Gingrich has the knowledge and solutions to the pressing problems (NCLB, nat'l. debt managment, unemployment compensation, etc.) U.S.A. needs to wake-up and quit voting according popularity, personality, or temperament. Really, if the classical model still exists, angry old conservatives do a pretty good job. Gingrich will continue to narrow the margin and eventually eclipse Romney. Obama has wide popular support, but a terrible record in the WH. The race will be tight and will come to jobs/economy. Obama simply has spent too much $$$$. The question is, "Will America care?"

    January 19, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  3. AEK

    You know, eventually one of these clowns is actually going to have to stand in front of the American people and put forth a well thought out plan to help our country. I know how much fun it is for the Republicans to stand and bash the President and each other but that is only pandering to the base. The independents and uncommitted are looking for something, anything more thoughtful.

    January 19, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I really have to say that I am amazed that Santorum is not polling with higher numbers. The South Carolina Republicans are exactly the type of voters who would normally flock to him.

    January 19, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  5. JACK AINSWORTH

    Thank God he said it now rather than waiting. Newt alone is a sick thought but with Palin too: This is too bizarre to be true. Republicans wake up and get your act together.

    January 19, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  6. Irma in north Carolina

    I hope Mitts lead keeps shrinking, he just has been to cocky about this. If Newt wins and heifers Sarah it will be a landslide win for the president.

    January 19, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    I guess Gov. Romney figured that he could smile his way all the way to the nomination.

    January 19, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  8. Erik

    Gingrich and Romney = MORE OF THE SAME. Vote for Ron Paul.

    January 19, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    When voters see that Mittens kept his money off shore to avoid even paying 15%, he will be toast.

    January 19, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  10. Tom C

    In spite of the GOP establishment's desire for a coronation of Romney, most people can now see that he is an out of touch, flip-flopping, very smug plutocrat who likes to fire people. If the assumption once was that he might easily beat Obama in November, that assumption is now highly questionable.

    January 19, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  11. Keith in Austin

    Those of us that work and pay taxes, believe in personal freedom and responsibility, support smaller Government and States Rights, relish the idea of Newt Gingrich demolishing Obama in upcoming debates and vividly exposing his ulterior socialistic-motives and deplorable record! Obama's Legacy: America The Great Welfare State!

    January 19, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  12. westward

    CNN – where are the stories about Romney's off-shore accounts? Every other news outlet is reporting on it.

    January 19, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  13. Jason Varner

    Really South Carolina? Really? Ron Paul is the only answer.

    January 19, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  14. Heathen Holiday Gliebe

    LMAO, CNN is in VERY bad shape. The deliberate black out of Ron Paul is waking people up and infuriating people who aren't otherwise political. Keep up the good work! Your desperation will help get Ron Paul in office! GO RON PAUL!!!!

    January 19, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |