Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Perry up big in South Carolina

There might not be a state that betters symbolizes the fundamental shift that's occurred in the Republican Presidential race over the last few months than South Carolina. When PPP last polled there in early June, Mitt Romney led everyone in the field by at least 15 points. But now with Rick Perry's entry Romney has lost almost half of his support. That leaves Perry with a 20 point lead- he's at 36% to 16% for Romney, 13% for Michele Bachmann, 9% for Herman Cain, 8% for Newt Gingrich, 5% for Ron Paul, 4% for Rick Santorum, and 2% for Jon Huntsman.

Voters on the far right side of the Republican spectrum have been dying for a candidate they can call their own and Perry is filling that void. With folks describing themselves as 'very conservative,' which is the largest segment of the GOP electorate in South Carolina, Perry's at 44% to 14% for Bachmann, with Romney mired in single digits at 9%.

That furthest right group of voters has never been all that friendly to Romney though. What has to be a greater sign of concern for him is that with those labeling themselves as only 'somewhat conservative' he still trails Perry 37-19 with Bachmann at 11% and Cain at 10%. When Romney's primary threat was Bachmann he was still winning this group of voters. But Perry seems to be filling a void for voters looking for someone more conservative than Romney and more credible than Bachmann and if he can sustain his lead with that segment of voters he's going to be tough to topple.

Romney does continue to be the favorite of moderate Republicans, leading Perry 26-20. But since those folks only account for 16% of the overall GOP electorate having their support isn't going to take Romney very far.

Romney's certainly lost the most support because of Perry's entry into the race, dropping 14 points from 30% on our June poll to now 16%. But pretty much everyone else has lost ground too. Gingrich is down 7 points from 15% to 8%, Cain is down 6 points from 15% to 9%, and Paul is down 5 points from 10% to 5%. The only folks who have held steady are Bachmann at 13% and Huntsman at 2% on both of these polls.

Another potential candidate losing ground with the Perry surge is Sarah Palin. In June we found that she would be in a clear second place behind Romney at 18% if she decided to get into the field. Now she's in third place at only 10%, well behind the 36% Perry would get with her in the field and putting her in back of Romney's 13% as well. Palin would probably see some boost in her support if she actually formally entered the race but this continues a trend in our polling showing that as time passes support for her is getting smaller and smaller.

It's possible that by the time the Republican race gets to South Carolina there will have been some narrowing down of the field as candidates perform poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. So we looked at some scenarios addressing that. If it was a three person contest by that point Perry would hit 50% with Romney at 25% and Bachmann at 16%. If it was just Perry and Romney, Perry would lead 59-28. If it was Perry and Bachmann, Perry would lead 63-20. And if it was just Romney and Bachmann, Romney would lead 45-40. It's really not a good sign for Bachmann that in a state with a Republican electorate as conservative as South Carolina, voters would still prefer Romney.

So why is Perry doing so well? He's out there talking about a lot of things that Republican voters agree with. For instance he's been made fun of for his skepticism about global warming but only 25% of primary voters believe it exists to 61% who do not. He has a 42-11 lead over Romney with the climate skeptics compared to only a 24-22 one with the voters who believe in global warming. It's a similar story with evolution- only 32% of GOP voters believe in it while 57% do not. He's up 41-10 with the evolution skeptics compared to just 31-24 with the voters who believe in evolution. People can make fun of Perry all day long but he's in line with the Republican electorate on these issues and his willingness to voice his skepticism publicly seems to be helping him pick up some support.

Full results here


Anonymous said...

His anti-science record may help him with Republicans, but it'll probably do more harm than good in the general.

Well, I hope it will.

Mark B. said...

Thanks for a very interesting poll. I notice Ron Paul leads Jon Huntsman with moderates, 9-7.

Being that Huntsman's candidacy for the Republican continues to be as laughable as ever it was, I sometimes wonder if he'll end up running for the Americans Elect ticket. The proprietors of that party have said they want a centrist who works across the aisle.

I Am Iron Man said...

And I'll continue to make fun of Rick Perry! It may not hurt him with the ignorant folks that make up the base of the GOP but I'm confident it will hurt him when he makes it to the general election (which at this point looks increasingly like a forgone conclusion... although I realize it's really too early to jump to that...)

Anonymous said...

Why do you make PPP look foolish by asking those questions at the end? Nate Silver was on saying that it hurts PPP's credibility and possibly the viability of the polling results.

Anonymous said...

Godspeed you, Rick Perry.

I can't think of anyone better for Obama to run against than a guy who calls Social Security a ponzi scheme and thinks Medicare is unconstitutional. You'd have to try really hard to hand the elderly vote to Obama, but he's determined to do it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Perry will be the flavor of the month like Bachmann was and then fade. Polls I have seen show that the citizens of Texas are not too fond of him as Governor.

Once his record is more thoroughly vetted will he fall?

The Interesting Times said...

I suppose the Democratic Party could attempt to make the election about evolution and global warming, instead of issues like the economy that Americans actually care about. It's their party.

I just doubt it will be a winning strategy.

See also Gallup polling on the number of Americans who believe in evolution. Creationism may be a fringe position in academia, but not in the public at large.

The Interesting Times said...

Here's one potentially useful tidbit of information about South Carolina:

Since 1976, when the Republican Party established its current primary system, the South Carolina Republican primary has selected the eventual nominee 83% of the time. Furthermore, the Republican primary in this state has picked the next President 50% of the time.

For comparison, the other early states' track records are as follows:

New Hampshire: 67% success rate for picking the nominee, 33% success rate for picking the next President
Nevada: 50% success rate for picking the nominee, 33% for picking the next President
Iowa: 50% success rate for picking the nominee, 17% for picking the next President

On the rare occasions when Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary both selected the same candidate, that candidate has been the party's eventual nominee 100% of the time. That nominee became the next President 50% of the time. However, this agreement between Iowa and South Carolina has only happened twice, so we're not exactly talking about a statistically significant indicator here.

NRH said...

Well, that's an interesting but not ultimately that surprising a cross-tab. South Carolina Republicans who have a strong Southern identity (expressed as thinking it important that the Republican candidate be from the South) are overwhelmingly birthers, while those who don't think that the candidate necessarily has to be from the South manage to come out on the sane side of the equation by two points, 41-39.

Meanwhile, Tea Partiers love them some Perry, but non-teabaggers are cool to him - though he still does second-best to Romney among the ones who have more than 70% name rec. Seems he's found a bit of a sweet spot, politically - far enough right that he can win over the crazies, but not so overt about it yet that he's turned off *all* the remaining non-teabaggers.

I Am Iron Man said...

The Democratic Party/Obama Campaign will make this into a CHOICE election not just a referendum on President Obama. It's a choice.

Do you want a pragmatic intelligent President who is doing his best to turn this country around facing very difficult obstacles (including those put in his way by the Republican Tea Party) or do you want George W. Bush without the brains (Rick Perry)???

Rick Perry represents the problem, not the solution. I think the case for this can be made quite well because it's so obviously true.

If the Republicans can find and nominate a "generic" Republican then yes they have a good chance of beating Obama - but the problem for them is there is no such candidate and even if there were he would never win the nomination.


Also; Perry hasn't just said astoundingly stupid things about evolution & global warming (which I will agree the average voter doesn't care that much about - as the average voter is a bit of an ignorant fool unfortunately) ... but he's also said incredibly stupid things about SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE.

Most Americans are not going to vote for a guy who claims these extremely popular programs are "ponzi schemes" and "unconstitutional."

I just don't see it for Perry. He very well may win the GOP nomination but I think he will make it very hard for the Republicans to beat Obama in 2012.

Dustin Ingalls said...

PPP asked voters the importance of the nominee being from the South, and three-quarters said that was not an important factor. But among the 9% who said it was very important, 71% believe Obama was not born in the U.S., and 51% of the 15% who say the candidate’s Southernness is somewhat important deny Obama’s citizenship. The rest are split 41-39 in taking Obama at his word, as John Boehner put it.

Draw conclusions as you will.

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