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Winthrop Poll shows Nikki Haley in 2nd place but still way behind Trump


Winthrop Poll shows Nikki Haley in 2nd place but still way behind Trump

Nov 15, 2023 | 8:11 am ET
By Abraham Kenmore
Winthrop Poll shows Nikki Haley in 2nd place but still way behind Trump
Former Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to supporters at the Statehouse on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, before signing paperwork to be on South Carolina's GOP presidential primary ballot. (Mary Ann Chastain/Special to the SC Daily Gazette)

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is solidly in second place among Republicans in her home state but still 30 points behind former President Donald Trump, according to a Winthrop Poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted just before Tim Scott dropped out unexpectedly, shows the South Carolina senator in fourth place in the crucial early presidential primary state. His support had risen to almost 11% here at home among self-identified Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

His sudden exit Sunday may help Haley further distance herself from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s in third place with more than 12%.

Scott showed the biggest improvement in the latest Winthrop Poll. His support had risen from single digits last month. Support for Trump, Haley and Desantis was largely steady.

But even if Haley got all of Scott’s support — which won’t happen — she’d still trail Trump. The former president continues to hold a commanding lead with 48% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents picking him as their top choice. His support grows to over 52% among just Republicans, who are most likely to turn out in a GOP presidential primary.

“Haley continues her steady lead over DeSantis for the distant second choice among South Carolina Republicans,” said Winthrop Poll Director Scott Huffmon.

“With Tim Scott’s surprising departure from the race, Haley will see how many ‘favorite son’ voters can be converted to ‘favorite daughter’ voters,” he continued in his analysis of the results. “This should give Haley a little more room in seeking non-Trump endorsements from Republican politicians and leaders in the state.”

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was a distant fifth in the poll with just over 3% support. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was at less than 2%. No other candidate broke 1%.

The poll surveyed 1,655 registered voters between Nov. 4 and 12. Voters in South Carolina do not register by party.

Both Haley and Scott remain popular among South Carolinians.

Among all respondents, about 60% had very or somewhat favorable opinions of Haley, compared to 25% with very or somewhat unfavorable opinions. That’s higher than Scott’s approval rating: 52% overall approved of his performance as senator while 23% disapproved.

Broken down by party, 31 percent of self-identified Democrats approved of Scott, while 44% disapproved.

President Joe Biden remains unpopular in South Carolina, with 59 percent overall disapproving. That jumps to 90 percent among Republicans.

Support for Israel

South Carolinians’ response to questions about the Israel-Hamas war show a sharp partisan divide: 80% of Republicans but only 40% of Democrats said they’re more sympathetic to Israelis than Palestinians. On the flip side, nearly a quarter of Democrats said they’re more supportive of Palestinians, compared to 5 percent of Republicans.

The war began with a surprise attack Oct. 7 by Hamas militants from Gaza who killed more than 1,200 civilians and took more than 200 hostages. Israeli airstrikes in Gaza since then have killed around 11,000 people, according to an agency of the Hamas-controlled government.

Despite a month of headlines on the bloodshed, about a quarter of respondents to the poll said they were unsure if they sympathized more with Israelis or Palestinians. A separate question on whether supporting Israel was in the national interest of the United States got a more definitive result: About two-thirds said yes. Less than 20% said no.

“The comparatively small number voicing more sympathy for the Palestinians may be a result of the confusion among many over separating Hamas from the general Palestinian population,” Huffmon said in his analysis. “However, it could also be an artifact of many believing that Hamas has the broad support of Palestinians. Perhaps the most telling numbers are the significant portion who don’t feel informed enough to express an opinion.”