Post-Debate Polls Continue To Show Trump Leading In South Carolina

Donald Trump appears headed for another victory in South Carolina's primary.

Trump Debate

In the wake of last Saturday’s Republican debate,which was framed sharply by a clash between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush that included Trump going after George W. Bush, who has come into South Carolina to campaign with his brother, on both the Iraq War and the September 11th attacks. as any pundits noted at the time, and in the days afterward, this is something that you simply don’t do in a Republican primary given the fact that the second President Bush remains rather popular among Republicans. It also seems like an unwise in South Carolina in particular given that it is a traditionally conservative state with a large population of active duty and retired military and their families, which is one constituency where support for the former President Bush remains fairly high. As he has done so many times before, though, Trump seems to be proving the pundits wrong and continues pushing ahead in the Palmetto State with just days to go before that state’s Republican primary. Indeed, if the polls are correct, Trump appears to be largely unstoppable just as he was in New Hampshire.

That, at least, appears to be the message from the first set of post-debate polls.

First up among the new polls is a poll commissioned by the South Carolina House Republican Caucus. According to this poll, Donald Trump leads with 33% of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tied at 14%, Jeb Bush at 13%, Ohio Governor John Kasich at 10%, and Ben Carson bringing up the rear at 6%. This represents a slip of two points for both Trump and Cruz since the last time this poll was taken, along with a rise of one percent for Marco Rubio, but since all these changes were within the margin of error they aren’t necessarily statistically meaningful changes.

The second poll taken since the debate comes from Public Policy polling and it shows Trump leading with 35%, followed by Cruz and Rubio tied at 18%, giving Trump a seventeen point margin. Coming in behind Trump and Cruz is Ohio Governor John Kasich at ten percent, and behind Kasich are Jeb Bush and Ben Carson who are tied at seven percent. This is a big change from the last PPP poll of South Carolina, which had Ben Carson in second place with 21%, but that poll was taken way back in November so comparing these two sets of numbers doesn’t really make much sense. Looking deeper into the new poll,though, Trump continues to lead even in a smaller race,albeit much more narrowly:

There continues to be evidence that the race for the Republican nomination will get a lot tighter down the line as more candidates drop out. Trump leads Rubio only 46/45 in a head to head match up, with supporters of Bush (73/10), Cruz (67/26), Carson (54/34), and Kasich (50/29) all strongly preferring Rubio to Trump if those were their choices. If Rubio can make the race in South Carolina more into a choice between him and Trump he has the potential to end up with a strong second place finish. Trump has wider leads in head to heads with Bush (50/40) and Cruz (48/38).

These numbers suggest that the attacks on Rubio from Cruz and Bush could end up helping Trump to the extent that they either make it less likely that Rubio is the last man standing against Trump, or that Rubio is a far more damaged candidate when it does. Conversely, the head-to-head numbers for a Trump tete-a-tete with either Cruz or Bush appear to show that Trump’s attacks against them are working well. The poll also shows strong support for even the most controversial aspects of Trump’s platform:

By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. In fact 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea. There’s also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else’s voters back. Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States, to 33% who think it should be illegal. To put all the views toward Muslims in context though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.

All of this leaves Donald Trump with a huge (Yuge?) margin of 18.5 points in the RealClearpolitics with an average of 36.3%, followed by Ted Cruz at 17.8%, Marco Rubio in third at 15.8%, John Kasich in fourth at 9.8%, Jeb Bush at 9.3%, and Ben Carson all the way down at 5.3%. This isn’t a significant change from where the Palmetto State has been in the past except to the extent that it shows John Kasich, who scored a surprise second place showing in New Hampshire, rising in the polls and Jeb Bush, who one would have thought would be doing better in a state that his father and brother won easily in 1988 and 2000, is performing so poorly. In any case,if these numbers continue then Trump seems likely to put another state in the win column and march forward to Super Tuesday as the presumptive leader of the GOP field.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    It’ll be nice when we finally get to an actual populous state.

    I still believe that Ted Cruz will rise in polling as many South Carolinians come to consider him to be an authentic conservative Republican.

    In the meantime, thank god for the Republican race, it has provided the best political entertainment in years.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    My gut tells me it will be Clinton and Trump in November and that Trump can’t possibly win a general election. But my gut has been pretty unreliable this election cycle so I wouldn’t put any money on it.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    Donald Trump…the personification of the emotions the GOP has for years exploited and yet never satisfied; racism, xenophobia, nationalism…leads in what is likely the most racist state in the Nation…a state that is only now beginning to let go of the Confederate flag; a symbol of that state’s pride in their treason against the Republic, committed in order to continue the enslavement of human beings.
    Quelle surprise!!!

    But let’s forget racism for a second: SC is another red-state welfare queen, which takes 35% more in taxes than it generates. In addition SC employs 261 full time employees per 10,000 citizens, as opposed to the 237 national average.
    SC is a joke of a state.
    Trump is a joke of a candidate.
    The GOP is now a joke of a party.
    It all makes perfect sense.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Please pass the ketchup.

  5. James Pearce says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    But my gut has been pretty unreliable this election cycle so I wouldn’t put any money on it.

    I have a similar feeling on the match up, but I’m less confident Trump has no chance in the general.

    I think that the more Trump departs from GOP orthodoxy, the more formidable he will be.

  6. MBunge says:

    Is it just Scalia’s death and the whole SC nomination thing sucking up everyone’s attention or are people experiencing some sort of fugue state after Trump got up in the debate and not only criticized the Iraq War but specifically blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 happening on his watch?

    There’s been some commentary, of course, but what Trump did was the equivalent of Bernie Sanders getting on stage and talking about Juanita Broaddrick. If Trump can win in South Carolina after that, he’s totally smashed the entire Kabuki theater of our modern politics and I think the folks deeply invested in those forms are in clinical denial.