Poll: Perry Holds Slim Lead in South Carolina

Poll: Perry Holds Slim Lead in South Carolina

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 20, 2011

A new poll shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a narrow lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in South Carolina, a state that will play an early and critical role in determining which candidate wins the Republican presidential nomination.

Perry leads Romney, 30.5 percent to 27.3 percent, among those who say they "definitely" plan to vote in the Republican primary, according to a Winthrop University poll released Tuesday. Perry's lead lies within the poll's margin of error. Businessman Herman Cain places a distant third, attracting 7.7 percent support. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who still hasn’t announced her presidential intentions, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich receive 5.8 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. Close behind is Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 4.2 percent support and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 3.5 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum each garner less than 2 percent.

The Republican primary winner in the Palmetto State has gone on to capture the GOP nomination in every presidential election since 1980.

Meanwhile, President Obama faces an uphill battle in South Carolina, a state he lost to Sen. John McCain by nine points in 2008. The state trends Republican in presidential elections and hasn’t swung for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976. President George W. Bush won there in 2004 by 17 points.

Obama’s approval ratings are 10 points under water: 40 percent approve of the job he is doing as president while 50.7 percent disapprove. His performance score is worse among independents: 30.9 percent approve and 56.5 percent disapprove.

The U.S. Congress, however, receives a much more dismal grade. Among the respondents, 83.4 percent disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job while just 9.6 percent approve. Republicans and independents give almost equally negative grades (84.7 percent and 87.9 percent, respectively). The majority of Democrats (78.5 percent) also disapprove of Congress.

Most respondents have a pessimistic outlook as well -- 70.9 percent of them feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and only 19.7 percent say it is on the right track. Democrats are split virtually evenly on this question, while the majority of Republicans (93.8 percent) and independents (79.6 percent) have a bleak view about the state of the nation.

Winthrop surveyed 1,552 registered South Carolina voters, including 596 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, from Sept. 11-18, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.49 percentage points. The sampling error for likely Republican primary voters is plus or minus 4.01 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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