ROCK HILL – With just over a week to go until the 2024 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, 65% of likely voters in the state support the nomination of former President Donald Trump – a 36% lead over his opponent, former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

According to the latest Winthrop Poll, Trump is the top pick for the Republican presidential nomination among all likely voters in S.C., though pure independents are more evenly split between the two candidates.

Among independents who are likely to vote in the upcoming primary, 42.3% support Haley while 42.6% support Trump. Among GOP voters only, Trump maintains a stronghold at 72%.

Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop Poll, offered some analysis. “In the late January Monmouth University/Washington Post Poll of voters in South Carolina, Trump had a 26-point lead. That poll also showed that Trump supporters were more enthusiastic than Haley supporters. This enthusiasm appears to have come to fruition in our poll of LIKELY voters.

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“On the heels of Trump’s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the culling of the field of candidates, Trump’s lead among those likely to show up at the polls on Feb. 24 has increased to 36%. Haley shows strength among independent likely voters but will need to convince many more independents who are sitting on the fence regarding participation to show up on Feb. 24 in order to cut into Trump’s lead. Trump’s dominance among strong Republicans and self-identified evangelicals will be hard to overcome.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally Saturday, Feb. 10, at Coastal Carolina …

“We did not ask Democrats or independents who lean Democratic if they intended to vote on Feb. 24, but to the degree that there is any crossover voting, it is likely to help Haley. However, not only is crossover voting less prevalent than many partisans make it out to be, it would take quite a few crossover votes to cut into Trump’s lead. That said, Haley has several avenues left to motivate voters.

“These include motivating on-the-fence independents as well as potential, if unlikely, crossover voters in order to cut Trump’s lead. Haley losing to ‘None of these candidates’ in the Nevada primary while our survey was in the field certainly couldn’t have helped her cause in our poll of likely voters in South Carolina. One of the most notable findings was the drop in Haley’s favorability ratings in her home state.

“With the exception of when she defied the Tea Party and endorsed Mitt Romney in the GOP primary, she has always enjoyed very high approval and favorability ratings among Republicans in her home state. However, as we look at her favorability ratings among Republicans in South Carolina between the November 2023 Winthrop Poll and now, we see a significant dip in favorability and a rise in unfavorability that seems to correspond with her increasing attacks on Trump. This would seem to indicate that in South Carolina, as apparently in the nation as a whole, that the Republican Party is very much Trump’s party.”

Of the likely voters who support Haley’s nomination, just over half have supported her campaign from the beginning of the race, even among a larger field of competitors. Among her current supporters, 14% originally favored Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Twelve percent of her current supporters originally supported fellow S.C. Sen. Tim Scott.

According to Huffmon, “More than half of Haley’s current 29% of supporters were with her earlier on, which tracks with our previous polling. As expected, the overwhelming majority of Trump’s support was with him from the beginning. Despite Senator Tim Scott’s endorsement of Trump, Haley culled a bit more support from former Scott supporters.

“Of surprise to me was that Haley picked up a few more former DeSantis supporters. I had assumed that supporters of the candidate running as ‘Trump-Lite’ would migrate to Trump, but Haley showed a surprising pull for these voters who were apparently looking for a Trump alternative. That said, the sheer mathematics of winning over more of DeSantis’ declining number of supporters could do little to cut into Trump’s lead.”

Seventy-two percent of likely voters who support Trump’s nomination have supported his nomination from the very beginning. Like Haley, his support grew most from former DeSantis and Scott supporters.

General election

If the presidential election were held today, and the candidates were President Joe Biden and Trump, 50% of all registered voters in the state would vote for Trump, while 35% would vote for Biden.

If the candidates were Biden and Haley, 47% would vote for Haley and 29% would vote for Biden.

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Huffmon notes, “Among current registered voters in South Carolina from all parties, Trump would beat Biden in South Carolina by at least 15 points while Haley would beat Biden by at least 18 points. Neither of these numbers includes those who are undecided and cannot include those who will register to vote between now and the presidential election.”

Approval ratings

Opinions regarding the way Biden is handling his job as president have not changed in the past three months for registered voters in the state. Fifty-eight percent disapprove. Among Republicans, 6% approve while 90% disapprove. Among Democrats, 71% approve while 17% disapprove.

Just under half of registered voters approve of the way Henry McMaster is handling his job as Governor of South Carolina. When it comes to how U.S. senators for South Carolina are handling their jobs, 33% approve of Lindsey Graham and 46% approve of Tim Scott. Despite his recent presidential campaign, around 20% are still unsure of their opinions.

Huffmon notes: “Sen. Tim Scott is seen very favorably by his own party. However, his career-long efforts to often fly under the radar have resulted in many in his home state feeling unable to form an opinion.

“While Sen. Lindsey Graham has a majority approval from South Carolina Republicans who are registered to vote, it is a slim majority. Graham has maintained influence in the House and the Senate for decades by understanding which way the winds of power were blowing.

“However, it appears that current Republicans who are registered to vote in South Carolina are not finding the same culture warrior they once expected, such as the one who virulently fought in Senate hearings for Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.”

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Haley’s favorability among Republican registered voters has decreased by 15% since November. While 71% viewed her as favorable in November, 56% now hold that same view. Thirty-three percent now view her as unfavorable compared to 16% three months ago.

As Huffmon noted above, “As we look at her favorability ratings among Republicans in South Carolina between the November 2023 Winthrop Poll and now, we see a significant dip in favorability, and rise in unfavorability, that seems to correspond with her increasing attacks on Trump. This would seem to indicate that in South Carolina, as apparently in the nation as a whole, that the Republican Party is very much Trump’s party.”

Views of Trump have largely stayed the same since November, both among all registered voters and among members of either party. Opinions among all registered voters regarding the former president are evenly split with 48% viewing him as favorable and 47% viewing him as unfavorable. Compared to Haley, partisan views of Trump are much more polarizing.

Are leaders ordained by God?

When asked if they believe that leaders in America are ordained by God, a majority (60%) of registered voters in South Carolina say no. Republicans and likely Trump voters are more likely than Democrats to believe leaders are ordained by God.

Should the US be declared a Christian nation?

Most registered voters in South Carolina (46%) do not think the federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation. Republicans and Democrats differ on this issue with most Republicans – though not a majority – wanting the US declared as a Christian nation and most Democrats saying they do not. A majority (55%) of likely Trump voters would like the U.S. declared as a Christian nation.

According to Huffmon, “Republicans, Trump voters, evangelicals, and especially white evangelicals are much more likely to want the government to declare that the United States is a Christian nation.”

Israel and Palestine

Most registered voters in South Carolina (48%) sympathize more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians regarding the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Thirty percent are unsure of where their sympathies lie.

Among Republicans, 69% sympathize with the Israelis while 6% sympathize with the Palestinians. Democrats are more divided on the issue. They are more likely to sympathize with the Palestinians (26%) than are Republicans, but most (36%) are unsure.

Though less than in November, a majority (58%) of S.C. registered voters think supporting Israel is in the national interest of the United States. Republicans (73%) strongly believe supporting Israel is the correct decision. While most Democrats agree (49%), they are much more likely to be unsure than Republicans.

Confederate monuments and flag

When it comes to what to do with monuments or memorials to Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War, most registered voters (38%) would like for them to be left just as they are. White respondents most often said the same – to leave them just as they are. Black respondents would rather have them moved to a museum.

When asked about the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag, 39% say it’s more a symbol of Southern pride while 34% say it’s more a symbol of racial conflict. Eighteen percent say it’s both. Black and white respondents differ on the issue. Half of white respondents view the flag as a symbol of Southern pride while over half of Black respondents say it’s more a symbol of racial conflict.

According to Huffmon, “We are frequently asked why we still ask questions about the Confederate battle flag and Confederate monuments. The answer should be clear with every poll: because there is still a deep racial divide over these issues.”


The survey gauged the opinions of 1,717 registered voters in South Carolina via landline, cell phone, and online panel between Feb. 2 and 10. Results that use all respondents have a margin of error of approximately +/- 2.36% at the 95% confidence level. Results that use only Likely Voters (n=749) have a margin of error of approximately +/- 3.58% at the 95% confidence level. Subgroups have higher margins of error.

The Winthrop Poll is conducted and paid for by Winthrop University.

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