The Palmetto Poll shows that Newt Gingrich’s popularity increased among the state’s GOP voters over the past month. Ron Paul gained ground too, up to double digits. But the most significant number in the survey, says Clemson University researchers is the number of still undecided voters.
About one-third (32 percent) indicated they have decided on a candidate to support.
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 at about where he was a month ago, and Ron Paul (10 percent) moved up from his November poll rating.
The remaining candidates: Rick Perry (5 percent), Michelle Bachmann (5 percent), Rick Santorum (2 percent) and Jon Huntsman (3 percent).
Because it was completed on the Dec. 16, the statewide poll does not take into account any “bump” to Romney’s ratings from the Gov. Nikki Haley endorsement.
On isssues: 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.
Clemson political scientists Bruce Ransom and Dave Woodard today said they expect that there may be a surprise in early January before the Palmetto State primary. “If not a surprising knock-out punch in Iowa, someone like Paul doing much better than expected” and becoming a serious contender, according to Ransom.
His colleague Woodard cautions that, this year, “They go up fast and they go down fast.”
They also reminded the media that the Palmetto Polls of 2008 showed that South Carolina Republicans were not interested in Sen. John McCain. “He had some of the highest negatives when we first began, ” says Woodard.
“There’s just a lot of movement this year, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” he says.
The next Palmetto Poll will be released a day or two before the South Carolina GOP primary held on Saturday, January 21.
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.