Published: December 19, 2011
CLEMSON, S.C. — Just one month before the state’s Jan. 21, 2012, presidential primary, Newt Gingrich’s popularity is increasing, yet most South Carolina voters are still unsure of who is the best GOP candidate to support.
That’s the finding of the second Clemson University 2012 Palmetto Poll of a sample of 600 South Carolinian voters. The S.C. presidential primary is expected to draw 600,000 voters early next year. The telephone poll was conducted from Dec. 6 to 19.
“With the demise of Cain’s candidacy, which was high in our November poll, Gingrich has risen in popularity,” said Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard. “This surge is being reflected nationwide as well.”
All respondents said they will vote in the primary, however only about one-third (32 percent) indicated they have decided on a candidate to support.
“It appears most voters are keeping their options open and do not want to say their current choice will be their final one in the primary,” said Clemson political scientist Bruce Ransom. “The approaching primary is still not at the forefront of attention from the electorate. Candidate commercials are competing with holiday advertising and bowl game excitement here.”
Among respondents who had chosen or were leaning toward a candidate, the December Palmetto Poll showed Newt Gingrich (38 percent) leading the field, a noticeable surge over his third-place (10 percent) finish in the November Palmetto Poll. Mitt Romney (21 percent) stayed basically at the same level he was a month ago, and Ron Paul (10 percent) moved up from his November poll rating.
The remaining candidates finished with single-digit percentages: Rick Perry (5 percent), Michele Bachmann (5 percent), Rick Santorum (2 percent) and Jon Huntsman (3 percent).
While the electorate may be unsure of which candidate to support, they are more certain about the most important problems facing the country. The economy is one. More than half of the poll respondents declared “federal spending” and “unemployment” as their major concerns. With the issues of “corruption in politics” and “partisan bickering,” these top four issues together accounted for nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of the responses about most important problems.
The Clemson University Palmetto Poll, sponsored by the Strom Thurmond Institute, the College of Business and Behavioral Science and the Department of Public Affairs, had a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.