Walker, Bush lead the field in SC

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s first poll of South Carolina Republicans for 2016 finds Jeb Bush and Scott Walker at the top of the heap- and GOP voters very cool toward the prospect of a Lindsey Graham candidacy. 

Bush leads with 19% to 18% for Walker with Graham and Ben Carson tied for 3rd at 13% and Mike Huckabee also in double digits at 12%. Chris Christie at 7%, Rand Paul at 5%, and Ted Cruz and Rick Perry at 3% round out the field.

There is little interest among Republican primary voters in Graham making a run for the White House. Just 25% think he should launch a candidacy to 61% who believe he should sit it out. Graham’s approval numbers among GOP voters are ok- 54% approve and 29% disapprove- numbers that are consistent with his performance in the Republican Senate primary last year. But it doesn’t translate to much support for President. 

Bush and Walker are drawing their support from distinctly different ideological groups. Among voters identifying themselves as ‘very conservative’ Walker leads Bush 27/12. But among those identifying themselves as moderate, Bush has a 36/6 advantage over Walker.

Republican primary voters in South Carolina are exceedingly conservative on a host of issues. Only 31% believe in global warming, just 34% believe in evolution, and 62% support establishing Christianity as the national religion. 

There’s a big divide in who voters support based on their opinions about global warming. Among voters who don’t believe in it, Walker leads Bush 29/14. But among voters who do believe in global warming, Bush leads Walker 27/3. Those splits mirror the divide based on whether voters consider themselves Tea Partiers or not- those who do support Walker over Bush 32/11, while those who don’t favor Bush over Walker 22/16.

Other quick hits from the Republican numbers:

-Walker is near the lead for the GOP nod despite having the lowest name recognition, with only 51% of voters expressing an opinion about him.

-Showing the extent to which conservatives have become distrustful of him, Bush has a negative favorability rating with Tea Party voters at 38/40.

-Huckabee has easily the best net favorability rating among Republicans in the state at +51, with 65% of voters seeing him favorably to just 14% with an unfavorable opinion. Being the best liked hasn’t necessarily translated to having the most support though.

-South Carolina makes another state where Ben Carson is getting a lot more traction on the right than Ted Cruz. Carson is second to Walker among Tea Party voters at 19%, while Cruz is in just 5th place with them at 8%. Carson’s +34 net favorability at 45/11 is 18 points better than Cruz’s +16 at 39/23.

-Rand Paul and Rick Perry have done consistently poorly in PPP’s Republican primary polling across the country so far in 2015. Paul polled at 4% nationally, 7% in Pennsylvania, and 6% in North Carolina in addition to his 5% showing here. Perry polled at 2% nationally and has polled at 3% in both North and South Carolina. These guys are really struggling right now.

-Republican voters aren’t just supporting candidates besides Chris Christie to be their candidate in 2016- they actively dislike Christie. Only 28% have a favorable opinion of him to 46% with a negative one. That puts his net favorability 34 points worse than the next worst Republican.

On the Democratic side the numbers are about what they are everywhere- Hillary Clinton leads with 59% to 18% for Joe Biden, 10% for Elizabeth Warren, 3% for Martin O’Malley, and 1% each for Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb. Clinton is polling over 50% with liberals, moderates, men, women, whites, African Americans, and voters in every age group. Notably after the difficulties she had in South Carolina in 2008, she has 60% support from black voters.

All of the potential Republican candidates lead Clinton for the general election, although some of the margins are pretty close for South Carolina. The strongest GOP hopefuls are Mike Huckabee who leads 49/41, Ben Carson who leads 48/41, and Jeb Bush who leads 49/42. The Republicans doing the weakest against Clinton- leading by only 2- are Chris Christie at 43/41, and Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham both at 45/43. In the middle are Ted Cruz who leads by 3 at 46/43, Scott Walker who leads by 4 at 46/42, and Rick Perry who leads by 5 at 48/43.

Full results here

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