Newt Gingrich has skyrocketed to the top of the Republican field among likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina. He currently leads his closest competitor, Mitt Romney, by 19 percentage points. Romney, who vied for the lead with, then candidate, Herman Cain in October, has lost support.
Here is how the contest stands among likely Republican primary voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate in South Carolina:
- 42% for Newt Gingrich
- 23% for Mitt Romney
- 9% for Ron Paul
- 7% for Michele Bachmann
- 7% for Rick Perry
- 3% for Jon Huntsman
- 2% for Rick Santorum
- 8% are undecided
“The road to Florida goes through South Carolina,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “On the heels of Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina will likely again be critical for the next GOP nominee.”
What a difference two months make! In NBC News/Marist’s October survey in South Carolina, Herman Cain, who has since suspended his campaign, was neck and neck with Mitt Romney. At that time, 31% of likely Republican primary voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate in South Carolina backed Cain while 28% were for Romney. One in ten — 10% — supported Perry, 7% rallied for Gingrich, and Paul and Bachmann each received 5%. Two percent favored Santorum while only 1% backed Huntsman. 10%, in October, were undecided.
Among the current potential Republican electorate including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, four in ten — 40% — now support Gingrich while 23% back Romney. Paul garners 9% compared with 7% for Bachmann and the same proportion — 7% — for Perry. Huntsman has the support of 3% while 2% favor Santorum. Nine percent are undecided.
- When looking at likely primary voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Gingrich leads Romney by 22 percentage points among Republicans and by 14 percentage points among independents. Paul receives 6% among Republicans but 15% among independents.
- Gingrich has majority support — 54% — and leads Romney — 15% — among likely Republican primary voters who are very conservative. Gingrich also has the backing of a majority — 51% — of those who support the Tea Party. Among this group, Romney receives 20%.
- Among those who are Evangelical Christians, 46% are for Gingrich while one in five — 20% — favors Romney.
- There are gender and age differences. Although Gingrich has the lead among both men and women, nearly half of likely Republican primary voters who are men — 46% — support Gingrich compared with 38% of women. Gingrich does better among those who are older. Nearly half of likely Republican primary voters who are at least 45 years old — 49% — favor Gingrich while Romney receives the support of 23% of this group. Among those who are younger, the contest tightens. 28% support Gingrich, 22% are behind Romney, and 16% back Paul.
Plurality Strongly Supports Choice of Candidate