PPP's newest South Carolina poll finds Donald Trump continuing to lead in the state, but that he's lost about a third of his support since peaking in early September. Trump gets 25% to 21% for Ben Carson, 15% for Ted Cruz, 13% for Marco Rubio, 8% for Jeb Bush, and 5% for Carly Fiorina. No one else gets more than 3% in the Palmetto State- John Kasich hits that mark followed by Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul all at 2%, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum at 1%, and Jim Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki all at less than 1%. There's a big gender gap with Carson leading Trump 27/19 among women, but Trump leading Carson by an even greater 31/15 margin with men.
Although he's still out front Trump's standing has declined a good bit from September- he's dropped 12 points from when he led with 37% on our poll then. His overall popularity with the Republican base has declined from then as well- he'd had a 64/28 favorability rating, but that's dropped down now to 53/33. It's possible the field will have seen some winnowing by the time the race gets to South Carolina and that's boding a lot less well for Trump now too. In September we found he led Marco Rubio 58/35 in a head to head match up and trailed Ben Carson only 46/45. Now he can achieve only a tie with Rubio at 46%, and his deficit to Carson is up to 51/38. He also ties Ted Cruz 44/44 in a head to head- the one he does still dominate is against Jeb Bush where he's up 57/32.
Ben Carson's campaign spent last week dealing with all sorts of controversies and the total effect on his standing in South Carolina appears to be...nothing. Carson's 21% standing in South Carolina is exactly what we found when we polled the state two months ago. And his 69/17 favorability rating continues to make him by far and away the most broadly liked candidate in the state, with Rubio coming closest to him on that front at 60/22. Voters just don't care that much about Carson's recent controversies- 65% say that Carson's violent youth, 'including stabbing a friend and trying to hit his mother over the head with a hammer' doesn't make a difference to them one way or another with 9% saying it makes them more likely to vote for him and 22% less likely. Voters don't agree with Carson's interpretation of what the pyramids were used for- only 7% think they were for storing grain to 75% who think they were used to bury the dead and 3% who think they were used by aliens- but it's not like that 'issue' is costing him support.
The only two candidates with any sort of momentum in South Carolina are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom are up 9 points from our September poll. Cruz has gone from 6% to 15%, and has seen a 10 point gain in his net favorability rating from +25 (52/27) to +35 (57/22). Cruz is leading the GOP field in South Carolina among voters whose biggest concern is having a candidate who's conservative on the issues (28% to 23% for Carson and 21% for Trump) as well as among Tea Party voters (32% to 27% for Trump and 18% for Carson). Rubio's gone up from 4% to 13%, and has seen a 14 point improvement in his net favorability from +24 (53/29) to +38 (60/22). Rubio's the second most popular of the GOP hopefuls in South Carolina and also the second most frequent second choice at 14%, behind just Carson who's second choice for 19%. All of those metrics make Rubio a likely beneficiary if anything ever does cause Trump and Carson's support to come crashing down.