PPP’s new South Carolina poll continues to find Donald Trump with a wide lead in the state. He’s at 35% to 18% each for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, 10% for John Kasich, and 7% each for Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.
What’s striking about Trump’s support is how consistent it is across different demographic groups- he’s at 41% with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters, 40% with younger voters, 38% with men, 36% with self identified Republicans, 35% with Evangelicals, 35% with middle aged voters, 34% with non-Evangelicals, 31% with women, 30% with self identified independents, 30% with ‘very conservative’ voters, 30% with seniors, and 29% with moderates. He has a lead of some size within every single one of those groups, similar to what he was able to do in New Hampshire.
The race is still pretty fluid in South Carolina- 29% of voters say they might change their minds between now and Election Day. Trump benefits from having supporters who are pretty resolute though- 77% of them say they will definitely vote for him, compared to 76% for Cruz and 62% for Rubio. Among voters who say their minds are completely made up, Trump’s support goes up to 40% to 20% for Cruz and 16% for Rubio.
There are some reasons within the numbers to think Rubio might put in an unexpectedly strong performance on Saturday night. If voters have to choose just among the top three candidates he finishes in a clear second place with 28% to Trump’s 40% and Cruz’s 22%. Among voters who are either undecided or support one of the also rans- Bush, Carson, Kasich- 37% say they would move to Rubio compared to 19% for Trump and 13% for Cruz if they had to choose one of the top three. So if strategic voting occurs, that’s likely to be to Rubio’s benefit.
One surprising finding from the poll is that Ted Cruz has the worst net favorability rating of the candidates, with 42% of voters seeing him positively to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. He and Jeb Bush (41/43) are the only candidates under water. Showing that popularity isn’t everything Ben Carson is by far the most widely liked hopeful in the state with a 68/23 favorability rating, followed by Rubio at 58/32 and Kasich at 52/29. Trump is only the fourth most well liked at 50/43, but in contrast to the other candidates most of the voters who like him are also planning to vote for him.
There’s been a lot of speculation that Trump might take on water after attacking George W. Bush on Saturday night, and Bush is relatively popular with 64% of voters seeing him favorably to 25% who have an unfavorable opinion. But despite his comments Trump is still leading even among voters with a positive view of GWB- he gets 26% to 22% for Cruz, 20% for Rubio, and 10% for Jeb Bush. And Trump is dominant with the swath of voters that doesn’t like George W. Bush, getting 57% to 12% for Kasich, and 11% each for Cruz and Rubio.
Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades. Among the beliefs of his supporters:
-70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital, to only 20% who agree with it being taken down. In fact 38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War to only 24% glad the North won and 38% who aren’t sure. Overall just 36% of Republican primary voters in the state are glad the North emerged victorious to 30% for the South, but Trump’s the only one whose supporters actually wish the South had won.
-By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. In fact 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea. There’s also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else’s voters back. Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States, to 33% who think it should be illegal. To put all the views toward Muslims in context though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.
There continues to be evidence that the race for the Republican nomination will get a lot tighter down the line as more candidates drop out. Trump leads Rubio only 46/45 in a head to head match up, with supporters of Bush (73/10), Cruz (67/26), Carson (54/34), and Kasich (50/29) all strongly preferring Rubio to Trump if those were their choices. If Rubio can make the race in South Carolina more into a choice between him and Trump he has the potential to end up with a strong second place finish. Trump has wider leads in head to heads with Bush (50/40) and Cruz (48/38).
On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 55/34. South Carolina exemplifies the way in which the Democratic race changes in places where there’s a large African American electorate. Clinton and Sanders are tied with white voters at 46%, pretty similar to how the race played out in Iowa. But among African Americans Clinton continues to have a substantial advantage over Sanders at 63/23. Clinton is very popular among black voters with a 71/12 favorability, while feelings about Sanders continue to be pretty mixed with him coming in at 39/33.
South Carolina’s being an open primary works to Sanders’ advantage. Clinton is up 31 with actual Democrats, 60/29, but Sanders cuts a lot into her advantage thanks to a 55/27 lead with the independents planning to vote in the Democratic primary. Some of the other customary big demographic splits we’ve seen in other places present themselves in South Carolina as well- Sanders is up 45/43 with men and 44/42 with younger voters, but that is more than drowned out by Clinton’s 64/25 advantage with women and 70/20 one with seniors.
Full results here