Poll numbers released Tuesday show that likely South Carolina Republican presidential primary voters prefer former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 38.4 percent to 21.5, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry trails at 9 percent.
Winthrop University’s December poll, taken Nov. 27-Dec. 4, surveyed 1,073 registered South Carolina voters.
Gingrich’s rise from 5.3 percent in September, compared with Romney’s steady 21.5 percent, reflects the volatility of a GOP race that has Republican voters grasping for an alternative to Romney, who has been perceived as inconsistent. Republican primary voters also grapple with whether to support a candidate who could be viable in the general election or one who passes conservatives’ test on key values.
South Carolina’s first-in-the-South GOP primary, set for Jan. 21, has made the state a destination for Republicans vying for the party nomination.
The poll yielded 6.6 percent for Herman Cain, who has since dropped out; 5.4 percent support for Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann; 4.1 percent for Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul; 3.1 percent for former Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania; and 1.4 percent for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.