COLUMBIA — Billionaire and reality TV celebrity Donald Trump maintains his significant lead among likely South Carolina Republican primary voters, according to an Opinion Savvy poll conducted for The Augusta Chronicle, Morris News and FOX 5 Atlanta.
Battling for a distance second place from Trump’s 36 percent, are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, with 19 and 15 percent, respectively. Behind them follows former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush with 11 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 9 percent, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 5 percent. Undecided voters made up 5 percent.
The Republican primary, dubbed “First in the South,” is Feb. 20.
The real estate mogul led Cruz by nearly 10 points among Evangelicals in the poll in which nearly 60 percent of those polled identified as “Evangelical.”
“Trump carries every age group except for the youngest (18-29) where Rubio nudges Trump out by 7 points,” said Matt Towery Sr., political analyst FOX5 Atlanta, columnist and frequent pollster for Morris Newspapers.
“But Trump has comfortable leads among the other age groups in the poll. Trump has the highest support from almost every segment of respondents grouped by political philosophy.”
The frontrunner leads among those who describe themselves as “very conservative,” “somewhat conservative,” “moderate” and “somewhat liberal.”
Kasich leads among the few South Carolina GOP voters who describe themselves as “very liberal.”
The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday by phone and mobile devices.
The findings suggest Trump has consolidated and increased his lead in South Carolina after winning the New Hampshire primary.
“This is notable given that recent Opinion Savvy surveys of this race in South Carolina have shown Trump in a closer race there than most other surveys,” said Towery.
The new poll numbers also indicate the race for second place is competitive, as Rubio “post-New Hampshire debate ‘hangover’ may be lifting,” according to Towery.
“Just as in Iowa, it would be wise to keep an eye out for last minute rise in his support should he turn in a stronger debate performance this coming week,” he said.