CNN/Time Poll: Race for South Carolina tightening
January 18th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
11 years ago

CNN/Time Poll: Race for South Carolina tightening

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - With three days to go until the first-in-the south primary, Mitt Romney remains in the lead in the Palmetto State, but according to a new poll, his advantage over Newt Gingrich is rapidly shrinking.

A CNN/Time/ORC International poll indicates that 33% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters say they are backing Romney, with 23% supporting Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor's 10 point advantage over the former House speaker is down from a 19 point lead two weeks ago. According to the survey, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is at 16%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is at 13%, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands at 6%.

See full results (pdf)

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 or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.

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The survey was released Wednesday, on the eve of a CNN-Southern Republican presidential debate, the final showdown for the candidates before Saturday's primary, the third contest in the primary and caucus calendar. And the poll came on the same day that Romney and his campaign appeared to step up their attacks on Gingrich.

"Gingrich appears to be the only candidate with momentum as the race in South Carolina enters the final few days," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Support for Romney and Santorum appears to be slipping, and Paul and Perry seem flat. Gingrich, however, has gained ground and cut Romney's lead in half since early January."

"All of Gingrich's increased support comes among tea party movement supporters, where he's at 31% support, up ten points from early January," adds Holland. "That suggests that Sarah Palin's remarks urging South Carolina voters to choose Gingrich may have a receptive audience."

Among voters who oppose the tea party or are neutral towards it, Romney holds a commanding 30 point lead over Gingrich and the rest of the field of candidates. The survey indicates that born-again Christians are divided, with 26% supporting Romney, 23% backing Gingrich, and 20% saying they'll vote for Santorum. Among those likely primary voters who don't identify themselves as born-again, Romney has a large lead.

Nearly all the interviews were conducted before the Palin's Tuesday night remarks and before Monday night's presidential debate. Most pundits agree that Gingrich had a strong performance at the debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. At the same showdown, Romney came under attack by his rivals for hedging on whether he would release his tax returns.

The Thursday night CNN debate could further influence South Carolina voters. And with more than four in ten likely primary voters saying that they could still change their minds between now and Saturday, a last minute surge for one candidate or another could materialize.

Florida's GOP presidential primary follows South Carolina's contest by ten days. A CNN/Time/ORC International poll of likely Sunshine State primary voters indicates that Romney still has a commanding lead, with more likely voters in his camp than Santorum and Gingrich combined. According to the survey, which was also released Tuesday, Romney stood at 43%, with Santorum at 19%, Gingrich 18%, Paul 9% and Perry at 2%.

"As in South Carolina, Romney does better among voters who do not support the tea party and those who do not consider themselves born-again Christians. In fact, he finishes second to Santorum among born-again voters," says Holland. "But, as with South Carolina, more than four in ten Florida voters have not made up their minds, and with the all-important South Carolina primary still in the future, the poll does not stand as a prediction of what will happen in Florida."

The poll in South Carolina was conducted for CNN and Time magazine 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.

The poll in Florida was conducted for CNN and Time magazine by ORC International from January 13-17, with 391 voters who are likely to vote in that state's Republican primary. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus five 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 • CNN/Time/ORC International poll • Polls
soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    How much do you all think the R design on Romney's campaign signs and placards cost(if you haven't studied it then please refer to the picture at the top of the page and observe the "R")? I'll start the guessing at around 5 million and we can probably work up.

    The only thing that makes Romney "marketable" to Republicans is literally his money. I owe money in the State of MA for not having health insurance following my graduation from college when my father lost his job and I subsequently lost my health insurance. I was not permitted to receive the health insurance because placed upon the state health plan. If this man had 1/100th of the money he has now, people should realize that if they vote Romney, they are voting for someone to the Left of the present White House administration.

    January 18, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. Nick

    LMAO- and 3 weeks ago somebody on these boards told me Newt was already dead in the water and did not have a chance,when I said Newt is the only one with a real chance to beat Obama. Fool.

    January 18, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. allenwoll

    A POX on A-L-L their houses ! ! ! ! ! !

    January 18, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. Dan5404

    More power to Gingrich and Paul I will vote for Obama.

    January 18, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. gb

    three more days????? Please god, NOOOO! Make it go away!

    January 18, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. Timetraveler

    I have full confidence in Newt's ability to lead us. To an all-you-can-eat buffet.

    January 18, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. Pup

    @"JARIV" Romney supports (he said so in the last debate) the NDAA *indefinite detention of American citizens without due process*...Anyone who WANTS that law is a tool of the tyrant. Use your head man! Ron Paul is the only one who will preserve liberty, the rest really literally do not care about your liberty. To quote Braveheart, "What will you do without freedom?!?!?!"

    January 18, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    I'm Republican – however, I'd take Obama again than to have Romney as President. So glad to hear the news from any poll that puts him behind.

    January 18, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. NW Smith

    "Where did these polls come from? The SC Poll only selected whites over the age of 50. This does not accurately represent the voters in South Carolina."

    It may be because those Republicans who traditional have voted in the SC primary in the last few elections had tended to be predominantly white and over 50. I'll admit it's not a good "look" for a national political party, but it is believable.

    January 18, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. vic , nashville ,tn

    Romney is not a conservative; in south still Newt have more supporters than Romney

    Republicans establishment forcing many to get on board with Romney that made some to support Romney many are saying they will stay home,
    If Romney is the nominee democrats will take over the house again

    January 18, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. macb

    I just don't understand how hard working, blue collar Republicans can vote for Romney. He is so out of touch with the average American and his comments prove it ("Corporations are people too," "[my speaking fees in 2011] were not much money (yea, only $374,000!!!!!!!!!!!). Can't wait to see what rich guy, elitist comment is going to come out of his mouth next.

    January 18, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Lindsey

    So Sarah & Hubby's endorsement of Newtie Baby has influenced SC voters? Why am I not surprised. A state full of dumba$$ holy rolling hypocrites.

    January 18, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. dorothy

    If South Carolinian voters manage to render Rick Perry to the dust bin of presidential aspirants, that's accomplishment enough for me. Send the guy back to Texas, please!. We're all better off if he spends his time fighting feral hogs than if he were sitting around contemplating how to get U.S. troops back into Iraq.

    January 18, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. icy

    i am tired of polls that try to influence voters.

    January 18, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. icy

    i wonder if people would vote different if we did not have all these polls.

    January 18, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Tom

    @ Daniel, you wrote, "My favorite part about this "poll" is that you only polled white people over 50 who make more than $50K/year. Real good representation of America." Actually, this was a random sample of registered Republicans likely to vote in the primary. The fact that they didn't come up with anyone under 50 y.o. making less than $50k reflects who the Republicans likely to vote in the primary are. Apparently, young, lower income people aren't likely to vote in the GOP primary...

    January 18, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Doug Lynn

    I will vote for anyone that will stop destroying our future with deficit spending. Currently, Ron Paul is the only that says he will even try to balance the budget by 2016. We are floating along today only because Washington is borrowing $4.2 billion from our future every day. Pretty soon the only projection the CBO will be able to make is one of impending economic doom.

    January 18, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. Steve Ellis

    I welcome any poll that shows Romney shrinking in 1st place.......And I am a Republican.

    January 18, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. Rob

    I hope Newt the Nit does secure the nomination overall. That would be the best thing for Obama's re-election chances ever!

    January 18, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. RYan

    Don't forget the Colbert on the Cain Train. I see him beating Rick PArry.

    January 18, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. RinosRwinos

    Herman Cain is closing fast. Watch out Romney and Gingrich! Santorum is so last week.

    January 18, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. A Latina Independent voter

    I could never vote for Romney, his father was born in Mexico, however, Romney seems to want to forget that detail and pretend it never happened. My first choice is Obama but if the Republicans have a better candidate perhaps I could change my mind , anyone but Romney. Latino voters care for the economy and education more than immigratin issues.

    January 18, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. markiejoe

    Is Colbert ahead of Perry?

    If so, Perry should drop out.

    January 18, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. Kevin Lanigan

    S.C. Racism sells.

    January 18, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. Bayousara

    South Carolinans go to church faithfully twice a week. Apparently they don't listen to the part about adultery. And Newt's current chippie is just as guilty as he is. You know, the woman with the Flying Nun hairdo.

    January 18, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
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