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. Omari

    Bill Clinton: Newt Gingrich And Mitt Romney Can't Tell The Truth And Win GOP Nomination

    Former President Bill Clinton said Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney can't say what they believe and get nominated in a GOP primary, in an interview with Esquire published Wednesday.

    "As a private citizen he [Gingrich] was for certain important health-care reforms and believed in climate change and believed there had to be a strong reaction to it. And now he's just like Romney," Clinton said. "Neither one of them can say what they believe to be true and get nominated. Romney's still trying to figure out what he did as governor of Massachusetts and still appeal to this driving vituperative energy."

    Gingrich has cited his work with Clinton when he was Speaker of the House as evidence that he can fix the economy. Other times, he has left out Clinton and touted balancing the budget and creating 11 million new jobs.

    When asked last December whether Gingrich could take credit for balancing the budget, Clinton said, "Not really, but I think he did work with me to pass some good budgets."

    Clinton, however, praised his former adversary last November to NewsMax, saying, "I think he's doing well just because he's thinking, and people are hungry for ideas that make some sense."

    Clinton also praised Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts in December, adding that it would be a "mistake" to underestimate him.

    Clinton told Esquire that Republicans have been pushed farther to the right.

    "Every time the president adopts a plan that they [Republicans] once advocated, they abandon it and push farther to the right," he said. "But the voters can push them back."

    January 18, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Art

    I'm voting for Ron Paul because I don't think he would vote for SOPA or PIPA to close the internet.

    January 18, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Michael Hicks

    Ron Paul 2012

    January 18, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. The Chosen One

    Wow people are crazy. The income is getting larger and larger, but they want to vote someone who'll support corporations over people? And Obama is even more nuts than every Republican, he may be smarter than most, however how can you vote someone who pretty much screwed up American (collectively with other former leaders) and then let NDAA pass.

    Ron Paul is the only person who can even pass off as votable. I don't support most of what he wants done however he's consistent with his idea's, he will not be bought by businesses and he is not a liar/politician. Ron Paul is by far the favourite candidate Internationally.

    January 18, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. Buster Bloodvessel

    Who cares? SC doesn't matter anyway. They'd vote KKK if one ran openly.

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

    Does anyone here believe this POLL ,, is this CNN's way of screwing with the public,,, give me a break,, i'll wait till the votes come in ,, Ron Paul in 4th CNN wishes,,

    January 18, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Dan

    Thank god Ron Paul will be out soon! Woo hoo!!!

    January 18, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Michael Hicks

    How come I see practically no support for Romney in these comments?

    Ron Paul 2012

    January 18, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. Mark

    Remember this is a "Party", this Republican "Party". Like all parties, sooner or later someone is dancing on the table top with a lampshade on his head. Of course, Gingrich came to the party wearing a lampshade, and Romney is just the designated driver, his only value at this party. I trust the people of S. C. to make the right choice, and not vote.

    January 18, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. Chris

    I'm writing in Ron Paul if it comes down to it.

    January 18, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. SAM

    Dear Newt, (PLEASE read before debate..PLEASE)

    It is great to see that we are getting a real GOP nominee for this election..An ANTI ROmney Middle class Leader defineatly NOT a leader who DOESN"T LIke to FIRE PEOPLE(Like Romney in his own words and Actions before)..

    We Americans, Christians wheather it be Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, Jews, Salute you...America Salute you..

    But ROmney is going to spend more time and person effort in digging all the past records of his opponents..Our Trump CARD is Romney's wealth..We all know that HE will NOT release his tax returns before April..The more he waits the more good for him because his weath is around 250 Million..COmes as .5% of americans..

    Important point dear speaker...Please READDDDDD>..............

    .I know that u will release your tax return of 2011 tommorow..If Romney still maintains that He is NOT releasing his current year tax before APRIL, Please ask to him in the debate. for the general Public Information if he can release his tax return information of LAST YEAR ie 2010..IF he really wants to give americans information about his wealth he has to do that..IF he objects that is all we need..AMerican people will realize something is FISSHY..South Carolina and rest of america will VOTE aganist him..IF he spells out his 2010 tax return that is also will be bad for him..because $200 Million and his statement of $375K fees last year he earned for speeches is not much for him..that too will make his campaign big trouble and we will have a true conservative leader.. He is NOT a CEO of any manufacturing or service company who created jobs in usa..HE is a CEO of invetsment company who doesn't matter JOB is created in US or NOT, but only how to make money by bankrupting any company , by closing factories shipping jobs overseas so to force americans scample for life and unemployment checks and HE can keep building MANSIONS..Seems he has got 8 Homes with each valued at around 7-8 Million dollars...

    Go Get AMericans HEART dear leader...

    January 18, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  12. John

    I don't why anybody would want to vote for Newt Gingrich. He Cheated on two wife and the last one was dying of cancer at the time. He help cause the trouble America In now when he was working for Fannie mack and Ferdie may, so this make him a crook. And beside that he all most LIE every time he talk and he Is racist.

    January 18, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. Val in MA

    Gawd... Go away already Newt. You will not win the nomination despite your secret grandiose plans. You are done... it's over, let it go already, think about the future of the country for once instead of yourself.

    January 18, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. georgex

    The gap between the most wealthy and the rest of the people has grown disporportioning to the wealthy and this is largely a result of tax policies that reduce the taxes for the rich. Romney's tax rate of 15% is due to income from investments rather than pay checks. Why shouldn't his earnins be taxed at the regular tax rate table as every worker? The breaks have been gained by excessive influence of the corporations and their lobbyists affecting our Congress. The advertising bought by this money distorts the interests of the people.There are efforts reduce the influences of money in the political system such as at the site of GetMoneyOut

    January 18, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. Mk54

    Big money PACs buy commercial time to condition the mass audience to accept their political product, just like auto Insurance. However, with car insurance there are laws forbidding negative advertising. With politics, all is regarded fair, and we must endure a seemingly endless stream of misrepresentation and villification. If ever there was a corrupt system in need of reform, this one is. Yet the press remains silent, quite unwilling to rock this boat, while they reap enormous profit.

    January 18, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Dan

    Ron Paul only has support from young people, who are more inclined and have a need to use the internet. That's why he appears to have so much support in the comments sections of all these articles. But the reality is the younger voters are but a fraction of the voting public, and many of them don't even bother to go to vote. That's why this old dog is going to be dropping out very soon. He's finished.

    January 18, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. ithinkthat

    Wake up Paul supporters! Ron Paul 2012!

    January 18, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. z

    cnn knows paul loses among the old folkes vote and possibly he may have many blacks too behind him. Completly blatant and biased.

    January 18, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. Quanah,TX

    We ALL listen too much to polls!!!! We All listen too much to BS media!!!! Too many allow both to influence their vote, which is exactly what both are designed to do. How about doing a bit of research and making an informed decision for yourself? And, my opinion is: NO OBAMA 2012!!!

    January 18, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Jean Dubois

    America is exceptional. Exceptionally stupid, that is.

    January 18, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. sylvia kunz

    Obama would have hayday with Gingrich and his record, I was liking him tell I read more about him and being kicked out as Speaker of the house his own party didnt like him, oh my goodness and then his love affairs in the office, and he just goes off and doesnt control himself, Santorum is just not ready to be commander in chief nor his family they would be crying all the time, Paul is out he was just the flavor of the month. People need to wake up and smell the mess coming and Gingrich may be a great debater but washington has alot of files on him and you think they have stuff on Romney just wait tell Gingrich is the one. Obama will be laughing all the way back to the White house. Wake up south carolina, and whats even morefunny isthese media talk shows will back anyone just to see this Go on longer and cause more points for obama media and make more money for there shows. Wake up people.

    January 18, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Hanging Chad

    Newt suggested Santorum and Perry drop out of the race. He forgot to include himself. More entertainment from the GOP circular firing squad.

    January 18, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. surfninja

    This is so cool! Four Republicans! Each one battling as hard as he can to prove to the people of South Carolina that he and he alone has the best plan for destroying America.

    January 18, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. joey

    a man who claims he should be president of the United States cannot understand why his remarks are offensive. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans are not on food stamps. Indeed, the majority of people who receive food stamps are white. Most recipients are also either children or seniors who are of retirement age. In 2010, working women represented only 28 percent of recipients, and working-age men represented only 17 percent.

    Gingrich’s suggestion that food stamps are somehow a preeminent black issue flies in the face of reality. Worse, it lumps all African-Americans together as federal aid recipients when the overwhelming majority of working-age black men and women are self-supporting taxpayers. Thousands of them are professionals such as doctors or lawyers. One of them is the President of the United States.

    Sadly, Gingrich’s snide answer earned an enthusiastic response from the largely white, Republican audience at the debate. The only thing more disturbing than the fact that Gingrich cannot understand why his comments are so deeply offensive is the fact that his ignorance is shared by others.

    January 18, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. Rev. Raymond Brown

    I think that Newt Gingrich should be arrested for using racism in S.C Newt called president Obama a food stamp president, now this is a racist. statement and white America should demand that Newt stop racially polarizing the election. Rev. Brown.

    January 18, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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