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. goldenmane

    love it, love it, love it......the more these clowns are divided among them themselves, the better. I look forward to everyone of their idiotic debates (at least the media short version). It becomes more & more obvious that none of them can beat Obama.

    January 18, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. rightospeak

    You keep promoting Romney and Gingrich-the annoited ones by CNN who offer nothing new for our country-only more of the same : endless wars for the 1% profits,open borders, importation of slave labor products to kill the remaining jobs.

    January 18, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. Hairball

    Born again = born yesterday. You should at least have to wait 18 years after your "rebirth" to vote again.

    January 18, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. Mark

    Moot Gingrich, Kick Perry, Split Romney, Con Paul - or Pick Santorum?

    January 18, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. Joshua Jager (@joshuajager)

    Why does CNN keep releasing 'creditable' 'national' polls that do not include anyone under 50?

    January 18, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. If you run with scissors...

    The GOP slate is a little dangerous, and leave me wanting something else.

    January 18, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. Chris

    I hear "Anyone but Romney" from basically everyone I talk to about this... Romney cannot win against Obama...I think Newt can if he picks a good VP!

    January 18, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. Mordrud

    Newt may not be the greatest guy in terms of morality but then neither was Bill Clinton. He still will make a better conservative president than Oromney. Oromney will not drive the GOP voters to the poll to support him. A vote in the GOP primary for Oromney is essentially a November vote for Obama. You are basically saying you think Obama's policies are fine and we don't need any change. IMO Newt or Paul would be a better representation of GOP voters than Oromney. They probably still wouldn't beat Obama but they would stand a better chance. Better luck in 2016 GOP!

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. Daph1

    Could someone with a sound mind please tell me why they would vote for Newt Gingrich!

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. jim

    Oh boy, now we have two "bozos" on the bus. One who claims to be a job-creator while killing good companies. He decries, "corporations are people" which makes him a serial murderer. The other, loaded down with so much baggage a baggage-handler can't deal with him. Someone once write: "Quick send in the clowns. Don't bother they're here."

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  11. Joe

    Ron Paul 2012!

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  12. Rick

    Do we really care what South Carolina thinks? Its just a bible belt state with a twisted view of the world.
    Remember this is the state that elected Nikki Haley as governor, a woman who bounced from bed to bed with lobbyists while she was still married, but still wants us to think she's for strong family values.

    I say we do a Mulligan and move on to the next state.

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. Jeff

    The pattern to pick up here is that Romney is weak among all of the typically ignorant voter groups who vote on fringe non-issues or religious beliefs instead of voting for an effective leader.

    January 18, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  14. sqeptiq

    Anybody who says the US military supports Ron Paul is delusional or a liar. The US military does not support candidates. Thats what makes our military special...they stay out of politics and work for the country under the leadership of the Commander in Chief.
    But Brice, feel free to quote any poll you can use to back your point.

    January 18, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. Pat in IL

    Keeping Gingrich in this race would definitely show the rest of the world just how amoral and just plain dumb we can be.

    January 18, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. KennyG

    I can just see Mr. O smiling with glee now. Maybe he will get reelected after all, and Obamcrats will rejoice.

    January 18, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Lee

    Mitt will be the only Commander-in-Chief who sat out a wartime draft on a RELIGIOUS deferment!

    As to Mitt Rmoney's 5 military age sons, Mitt explained that they were serving America "better" by working on his decades long political campaigns. When Mitt attacks Iran as he threatens, he will send YOUR sons as his have "better things to do".

    This man is an empty suit.

    January 18, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. ART

    Whats going on ther are no lesser of two evils they both suck.

    January 18, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Reilleyfam

    None of these losers has even a chance against Obama.

    January 18, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. gonfis

    Anyone thinking they can stay the present course is not paying attention. What this administration has done to the country is appalling. There is no such thing as a perfect politician nor are there perfect people but increasing the debt by 43% in three years, turning the EPA loose with idealogues, establishing a Consumer Protection Czar without over sight, etc. and then playing the populist card is atrocious. We stop the growth of government now, take the pain and quit relying on false promises from the government or we will make Greece look like a success story. Socialism does not work regardless of your political stance. Anyone is better than Obama and his czars even if not perfect.

    January 18, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Cody Jones

    So if you are under 50 years of age, anything but white, or make less than than 50K a year, THIS POLL DOESN'T REPRESENT YOU! Call CNN and ask for representative polling with a true representative polling sample. This is disgusting.

    January 18, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. seriously???

    I'll just say I think it's hilarious when people question polls with, "They only asked 1,026 people!" or see "CNN/Time/ORC International poll" and think they literally polled people in Slovakia. Ahh... people and their total lack of understanding. It's just so depressing.

    January 18, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. Reilleyfam

    I'd vote GOP if Stephen Colbert gets the nomination.

    January 18, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. HAHA!

    CNN propaganda. Ron Paul has immense support in S.C. and NO ONE likes Gingrich here. Newt already burned his ties with the southern demographic. We don't tolerate adultery here, after Sanford's blemish on our state, we've wised up to slimy politicians like him. We're going to see another close one between Paul and Romney. The gist of things 'down hur' is Romney is a capitalist Yankee, Santorum is a bigot Yankee, Newt is a transplanted Yankee, Perry is the only thing more laughable than this article. I'll be busing in people to the primaries, people who are tired of watching Wall Street and Capital Hill leech the life out of middle class/military class people.

    January 18, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. Bananahanacana

    Be advised! Once again as others have pointed out, CNN has conducted an over 50 age poll only, and failed to mention this. Deceptive reporting at it's best.

    Why, CNN, are we excluding the under 50 crowd and failing to mention this very important fact?

    January 18, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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