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. Tiller In Texas

    Romney is a wet noodle

    January 18, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. RockoT

    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 this and stimulus-that, 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 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. goodlife

    nobody sounds as authoritative as romney on economics, not even the sitting president. economy is the real and only issue in this election, the rest is a distraction (including the foreign stuff)

    January 18, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Ricksta

    Whether it be Coot or Mutt really doesn't matter - they both suck.

    January 18, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. "Romney Can't be Beat

    unless Santorum or Gingrich drops out (thus benefiting the other)."

    Agreed. However, Santorum is not going to drop out because being the family values guy he is, he would rather see a Romney presidency than a Gingrich presidency. He also realizes that Gingrich is more likely to lose to Obama than Romney.

    Gingrich is not going to drop out because his ego is too big.

    January 18, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. Pamela

    Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who wants FREEDOM for the American people.

    January 18, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Ambrose Smith

    This Democrat is backing Romney for the GOP nomination. That way, if he (somehow) beats Obama, America will still have a liberal in office. How do you like them apples tea baggers??

    January 18, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. Alex

    I will only support Ron Paul this election season!

    January 18, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. mikeM

    If Gingrich does well, it's a sign that people like what he says and forget how he has behaved. He has been unfaithful to his wives. The PAC that supports him is backed by a Zionist casino owner.

    January 18, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. sf

    just shows you how easily independents and idiot republicans can be fooled

    January 18, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  11. Over 50, white and earning over 50K

    About that poll sampling . . . does anyone else matter really?

    January 18, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Rick

    Newt Gingrich is a phony, pious, ethics violator. And how is it that religious and fiscal conservatives go for a two-time adulterer and Tiffany's account high-spender? It was Newt after all who took 1.6 million to "consult" with Freddie Mac before they caused the huge Real Estate meltdown. Did Newt's big ideas sink Freddie and us?

    Newt's core is very suspect – with his inconsistencies in prosecuting Clinton for his affair with Lewinsky, while he himself was betraying his own wife, to his latest Obama-line-of-attack against free enterprise and private equity.

    Newt wants to say that he's a leader but keeps having to explain his bad decisions and behavior. Sorry Newt, but your big talk is not consistent with your bad walk.

    South Carolina, please show Newt the door. Then perhaps Sarah Palin will realize that the South Carolina primary doesn't exist to line the pockets of Fox News in advertising but represents American freedom in action to change the direction of our country.

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Mark

    Briggs, No actually we do NOT all know, and you speak only for you. It's that kind of creepy know-it-all arrogance that turned me off Paul to begin with.

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. kelcey

    Ron Paul!!!

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Dave Des Moines

    People should be judged on their character; instead of how much money they make. A lot of us believe, if you are in certain occupations, like being a doctor, a lawyer, or just plain rich. We should look at them the most favorably.
    I hope instead, whether you have a quick mind or not; the tests of character be what everyone should be judged on. That janitor, grocery clerk, and others; may have better character than even some doctors or some of the rich.
    There are many people in certain occupations, I admire. That I could not match their worth in terms of their character and determination. Those include occupations such as our soldiers, EMT's, snow plow drivers and many truckers working nights. How do they do it? How do they find that inner strength?
    We talk about our nation needs new work ethics for many. We should reward hard work. Then why do we reward no work from those simple capital gains transactions; Then those who work hard, like truckers, nurses and store clerks. These hard working Americans are taxed higher than the no work required capital gains tax.
    I believe, we as a society, should judge people by their determination and character; and not by their money or occupation. As the Declaration of Independence says ...All men are created equal...Therefore, we should look at people of all occupations equally....It really depends on their character; no matter what occupation they are in...

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Tired of Nonsense

    The Ron Paul campaign should create another media ad that exploits 'Serial idiocy' by the American people. Wake Up Sheeple! Romney and Gingrich are tools to promote anything but a better country.

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. sf

    And as for Ron Paul...what a joke! 24 years he's tried...GET THE MESSAGE PAUL!

    he's only doing this to set up his equally crazier son for future Presidential bids! we have nut job son to deal with for years to come!

    January 18, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Reallllly

    "All interviews conducted by telephone among 391 likely
    voters in the Florida Republican primary and 505 likely
    voters in the South Carolina Republican primary"

    Ya nothing like calling a race with less than a thousand votes... CNN really needs to get it stuff together what a joke

    January 18, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Sanity

    searched the news for Ron Paul news and the only thing I got was these three warmongers , Mitt,Newt and Santo. Did you even know that FOUR SC senators have endorsed Ron Paul but the only thing CNN reports is some religious loony endorsing Santorum. Check out for yourselves. . Hear is the link of the endorsments if any one intrested....

    January 18, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Randy Nawlin

    I just do not trust Romney on any issue, he seems like he will say or do anything to be President and I just can not in good faith vote for him.

    January 18, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. bgvxbgvdvndvhdvtnjcvng

    cojudos – go romney get 270

    January 18, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. WDinDallas

    Go Newt!

    January 18, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. Scott

    I have to in-laws who are both on disability, who NEVER would have saved enough to retire or pay their medical bills, who still have the gall to ask "What's the govt ever done for me??" I think the average Ron Paul voter would be stunned and clueless suddenly deprived or our modern government and left "on their own." Ann Rand was an atheist, social-security-collecting hypocrite whose altar I don't worship at.

    January 18, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. conrad

    No matter, Obama will get a second term.

    Obama 2012!!

    January 18, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. DavidE7

    The older I get, the more I see that this stuff is entertainment, that big money is pulling the strings, and the people are being conditioned to select the pre-approved candidates. Why should the outcome in New Hampshire be a sure predictor of the outcome in Arizona? Because candidates run out of money? Then it is all controlled by wealth, is not free elections. The only time the establishment doesn't win is when they put forward a terrible candidate. Like Romney.

    January 18, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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