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. Person Who actually read the PDF

    Did anyone read the PDF
    This poll is comprised of all 50+ year old white people.......
    And we are supposed to view this as some type of bearing on opinion in that state
    CNN yall are looking more and more like fox every day............

    January 18, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. rosaadriana

    We are all just jealous of Mitt that is why he won't win in November.

    January 18, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Charlie in Maine

    I almost qualify for your poll. I will be 49 this year and I make 49.5K. I am white. Furthernore I support the President and would not vote for any one of the GOP /Tea party cry baabies for any post any where at any time.

    January 18, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Jeff S

    Why is Rick Perry still in this race?

    January 18, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  5. HarbajanSingh

    Yes the 250million candidate will go to war with Iran with his sons avoiding the military. What is new?

    January 18, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Bermille

    Good way to let America know racism is alive and well.

    January 18, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. Keith

    How can South Carolina really matter, if you have ever been through that place it has to be the worst state in the union it contains the worst part of Inter-state

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Mike C

    dont waste your vote for any of these establishment cronies. reserve your right to vote until there is a candidate who rails at the real problems facing this country.. capitalism, greed, and disrespect for each other.

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Rick Ross

    I don't care who wins the nomination as long as we turn the direction of this country around. Thanks to Obama and the liberal Dems'; astronomical debt in the Trillions, economy worse than it was 3 years ago, no jobs and no company is going to give up profit margin to pay more for employee health benefits so kiss that goodbye. I wonder if anyone judges a president based on performance metrics anymore or is it just 'smear the challenger and stay the course over the cliff' like a bunch of lemmings...

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. augustghost

    ad nauseum politics

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Charlotte

    Um – many people are pointing out that the poll is only of white voters over 50 years old and find it somehow different from 'likely voters." I will point out that if the voter ID laws work as planned, these will be the only people who CAN vote. Then I have to ask why anyone would give a rat's behind what Sarah Palin has to say but alas, it IS South Carolina....

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. gcoop

    Wow. I guess we know where Obama's 40% of supporters are... CNN forums are a magnet for them. Amazes me how a president can screw things up as badly as he has and still have the unwavering support of some people. Please do this country a favor and elect someone with actual, workable plans for improvement... not a pretty smile, empty promises, and a proven track record of epic failure.

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  13. Cubanon

    If Romney releases his income tax returns, he wont win in SC!!!!!

    January 18, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. westward

    We've been telling this to CNN for weeks now. Newt, Paul and Santorum are much better organized in SC with much more enthusiasm than the Romney camp. You can't help but notice. This is no secret at all – CNN just has no boots on the ground in SC>

    January 18, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Mark

    What would you expect from the South, where they still operate under the good old boy philosophy and where racism is thinly disguised. The Newt fits right in.

    January 18, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. AmericanSam

    It's too bad about Jon Huntsman.

    January 18, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |

    President Obama needs four more years to work on all the programs he promised during his campaing. I am 100% sure he will be re-elected. OBAMA 2012-SI, SE PUEDE!!!!

    January 18, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. Benjamin

    Romney can't be beat unless Santorum or Gingrich drops out (thus benefiting the other).

    January 18, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. me

    Where is Colbert? I thought he had 5% and that is why whats his name dropped out?

    January 18, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  20. Patricksday

    May the best loser win!

    January 18, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Seriously?

    Did anyone watch the debates the other night? All I got out of it was South Carolina should not be in the union and are primarily racists.

    January 18, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Nate

    Once again, CNN conducts a poll in where they speak with NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 50. Just like last weeks "National Poll" where NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 50 WAS POLLED!
    Take a look at pages 6 & 7 of the PDF. Black and white, right there. Just another instance of CNN CREATING their own news.

    January 18, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. RoboBobo

    The only job for South Carolinians is rubber stamp New Hampshire and go back to marrying their cousins.

    The fact that there is any movement in South Carolina at all, just shows how little people like Romney. And why would he be liked? He's the club pick like George H.W. Bush – he can barely tolerate or even remember to pretend to be conservative.
    Taxes? Romney loves taxes, he won't rule out giving us a europe style V.A.T. tax. George sure couldn't remember he was against taxes.

    HIs supporters are ready to debate the relevant merits between Romneycare and Obamacare, between stimulus-dee and stimulus-dum, between nation building this country vs. that – but who is looking forward to that debate?

    My gosh, I'd rather have a real debate between people that substantively disagreed with each other – instead of all these tempest in teapot arguments.

    January 18, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  24. Funk

    These polls are ridiculous. They only polled white people over the age of 50. The more the controlled media does this, the more they show their bias. To contrast this, Fox news used input from twitter to decide who won the last debate in Myrtle Beach, and Ron Paul won by a landslide. Mitt Romney got owned (he really is owned though anyway). It goes to show you how you can manipulate and control what news gets put forward by our media.

    January 18, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Joe

    Another stupid landline telephone poll... basically tells you who old people are going to vote for. Useless.

    These numbers are in direct contrast to the ones Wolf Blitzer showed that said 20% were for Ron Paul in SC.

    January 18, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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