If you’ve been wondering how last Saturday’s clown show that was the GOP debate impacted voter perceptions, here’s your first glimpse. A new CNN/ORC poll shows Donald Trump continues with a wide 16-point lead ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary. While Trump holding a strong lead is likely no longer surprising to anyone who’s been following along, the big surprise is what CNN called his “stunning” lead among the state’s evangelical voters — holding 42% support, nearly 20 points ahead of rival Ted Cruz.Via CNN:
Donald Trump holds a broad 16-point lead among those likely to vote in South Carolina’s Republican primary this Saturday, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton tops Bernie Sanders by 18 points in the state’s Democratic primary, which will be held a week later.
In the Republican race, Trump, at 38%, tops Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds second place with 22%. Behind those two, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio garners 14% support, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is at 10%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 6% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 4%.
Trump’s lead is bolstered by widespread perceptions of him as the candidate best able to handle the economy, immigration and ISIS, and further, that he has the best chance to win in November and would be most likely to change the way things work in Washington.
Voters in South Carolina are less apt to say they trust Trump on social issues and on foreign policy, yet he is still near the top of the list of preferred candidates even on those issues.
Trump holds an even broader lead among white evangelical voters in the state, who typically make up a majority of Republican primary voters. He tops Cruz by nearly 20 points among this group: 42% Trump, 23% Cruz, 14% Rubio, 9% Bush, 5% Carson and 1% Kasich.
The news is not all good for Trump, however:
The poll suggests Trump’s support may have softened after Saturday’s debate among the GOP candidates. In interviews conducted before the debate, 40% backed Trump, compared with 31% who said they supported him after the raucous matchup between the remaining candidates in the field. Two candidates who attempted to remain above the fray in the debate — Carson and Kasich — each appeared to get a bump in the post-debate interviews, though the increase for both candidates was within the margin of sampling error for the post-debate interviews.
Consider, too, that this poll only includes two days post-debate, so it’s unclear if that downward trend Trump’s support seems to be seeing post-debate is continuing further.
The CNN/ORC South Carolina poll was conducted by telephone February 10-15 among a random sample of 1,006 adult residents of the state. Results among the 404 likely Republican primary voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. For results among the 280 likely Democratic primary voters, it is plus or minus 6 percentage points.
In any case, we can still expect potential surprises Saturday, as the poll found about half of those likely to vote in Saturday’s primary have not fully decided yet.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]