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Haley Trails in Home State

South Carolina

Few GOP primary voters worried by Trump legal problems

West Long Branch, NJ – Both Nikki Haley and Donald Trump have gained support among South Carolina Republican primary voters since the presidential nomination contest became a two-person race. However, the state’s former governor continues to trail the former president by a wide margin in the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University-Washington Post Poll. On the question of electability, more voters see Trump rather than Haley as a definite winner in November. Very few Trump backers say a possible conviction for his 2020 election actions would change their minds about supporting him.

Chart of South Carolina Republican primary preference.  Refer to question 5 for details.

A majority (58%) of potential Republican primary voters currently support Trump (up from 46% in September) while 32% support Haley (up from 18% in the fall). Trump commands majority support among both men (62%) and women (54%) and all age groups (62% among those ages 18 to 49, 58% among those ages 50 to 64, and 57% of those age 65 and older). He has especially high levels of support among white evangelicals (69%) and voters without a college degree (68%). Trump splits the vote with Haley among voters who are not white evangelical (46% to 42% for Haley) and college graduates (44% to 46% for Haley).

Trump’s legal problems are not much of a concern among South Carolina’s Republican primary voters. Fully 3 in 5 (60%) say the GOP should keep Trump on the ticket if he wins the nomination but is convicted of a crime related to the 2020 election. A similar 62% say they would still cast a general election ballot for Trump in that situation while just 17% would vote for incumbent President Joe Biden. Among current Trump supporters in the state’s primary, 88% feel he should stay on the ticket even if convicted, with 90% saying they would still vote for him over Biden in November.

As it stands now, 7 in 10 voters believe Trump would definitely (42%) or probably (29%) beat Biden in November. There is less confidence in Haley’s prospects if she were to become the nominee, with just 21% saying she would definitely beat Biden and 42% saying she probably would. On the other hand, Haley supporters (32%) are less confident in Trump’s chances of beating Biden in November than Trump supporters (54%) are about Haley’s prospects.

“Trump’s electability is a concern for some primary voters. It’s just that this group is nowhere near large enough to put Haley in striking distance of the front-runner,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Chart of South Carolina Republican Primary trust on issues. Refer to question 12 for details.

Potential Republican primary voters trust Trump over Haley across a broad range of issues.  The former president has a clear advantage on immigration policy – 62% trust him more to handle this issue compared with 22% who trust Haley more – economic policy (60% to 21%), and foreign policy (54% to 29%). Trump has a slight edge on being trusted more to handle abortion policy – 35% to 26%, with 33% saying they trust Trump and Haley equally on this issue.

This poll report does not include a modeled “likely voter” projection. The results presented here represent the pool of potential Republican primary voters, i.e., those who indicate having at least some chance of voting in the primary. More Trump voters (73%) report being extremely motivated to turn out than Haley supporters are (45%) according to the poll. On the other hand, South Carolina holds an open primary with no partisan registration. This means any registered voter who does not participate in this Saturday’s Democratic primary is eligible to cast a Republican ballot at the end of the month. The vast majority (81%) of those polled have voted in at least one primary since 2016 according to the election rolls. This includes 6 in 10 who have voted in only Republican primaries along with another 2 in 10 who have voted in both Republican and Democratic contests over the past eight years. Trump has a decisive advantage among voters who have only participated in Republican primaries (67% to 24% for Haley) as well as those who have not voted in any primary since 2016 (66% to 31%). However, Haley (55%) actually leads Trump (27%) among those who have voted in both parties’ primaries during this span.

Chart of South Carolina Republican primary groups likely to vote.
Primary vote history since 2016.
Both Rep & Dem primaries 27% Trump,  55% Haley.
Rep primaries only 67% Trump, 24% Haley.
No primaries 66% Trump, 31% Haley.

“Haley’s hopes appear to hang on pulling in Democratic-leaning voters who would never support her in a general election but simply want to stop Trump. Our sampling frame for this poll did not include voters who have participated only in Democratic primaries. If a sizable number of those voters decide to skip this week’s primary and show up for the Republican contest instead, she could narrow the gap. It would remain a tough challenge, though, for her to actually close it,” said Murray.

Murray added, “Another problem for Haley is that even a close second-place finish may not provide much momentum because of South Carolina’s winner-take-all delegate allocation rule. Our poll currently shows Trump statistically ahead in five congressional districts and holding nominal leads in the other two. A Trump sweep of all 50 delegates is possible even if Haley can make it a tighter race.”

The poll also asked potential Republican primary voters about Sen. Tim Scott’s endorsement for the presidential nomination. Haley originally appointed Scott to his U.S. Senate seat when she was governor, but Scott endorsed Trump last month. Half (50%) say Scott should have endorsed Trump, while just 24% say he should have endorsed Haley. Another 16% say Scott should not have endorsed anyone. Scott is currently more popular than Haley among their home state’s GOP primary electorate. The senator earns a 58% favorable to 24% unfavorable rating while the former governor gets a 45% favorable to 41% unfavorable rating. Scott’s favorability number is in line with his result in the Monmouth University-Washington Post poll from September (62%), but Haley’s positive rating has dropped considerably (from 59%). Views of Trump have remained relatively stable during this same time – 66% favorable to 28% favorable now compared with 60% to 30% in the fall.

The Monmouth University-Washington Post Poll was conducted by telephone and online from January 26 to 30, 2024 with 815 potential Republican presidential primary voters in South Carolina. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points for this sample. The poll was conducted jointly by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and the Washington Post.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.How closely are you following the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination?

Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Very closely58%46%
Somewhat closely28%31%
Not too closely8%12%
Not at all closely6%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
   (n)(815)(506)

2.How likely are you to vote in South Carolina’s Republican primary for president near the end of February – are you absolutely certain to vote, will you probably vote, are the chances 50-50, or less than that?

Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Absolutely certain to vote79%78%
Will probably vote 13%15%
Chances are 50-50  7%7%
Less than thatn/an/a
   (n)(815)(506)

3.How motivated are you to vote in the Republican presidential primary: extremely motivated, very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not motivated?

Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Extremely motivated59%60%
Very motivated20%17%
Somewhat motivated13%14%
Not motivated6%8%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%
   (n)(815)(506)

4.I’m going to read you the names of some prominent Republicans.  Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion. If you have not heard of the person, just let me know. First, [READ NAME]. [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Trend:
Favorable

Unfavorable

No opinion
Not
heard of
(VOL) No
answer

(n)
Former President Donald Trump66%28%4%0%1%(815)
— Sept. 202360%30%9%0%1%(506)
Former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley45%41%10%1%2%(815)
— Sept. 202359%24%12%1%4%(506)
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott58%24%12%3%3%(815)
— Sept. 202362%20%13%1%4%(506)

5.If the Republican primary for president was held today, would you vote for Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, or someone else?[NAMES WERE ROTATED]

 Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023*
Donald Trump58%46%
 Nikki Haley32%18%
Other-Someone else 2%1%
Ron DeSantisn/a9%
Mike Pencen/a3%
Vivek Ramaswamyn/a3%
Tim Scottn/a10%
Asa Hutchinsonn/a2%
Chris Christien/a5%
Doug Burgumn/a<1%
(VOL) Don’t know8%4%
(n)(815)(506)

          * 2023 question wording was “…for which one of the following candidates would you cast your vote?”

6.Are you definitely supporting [TRUMP/HALEY FROM Q5] or would you consider supporting [HALEY/TRUMP]?

Response:Jan.
2024
Definitely supporting79%
Would consider other candidate9%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
Other choice, undecided (from Q5)10%
(n)(815)

Prior question from September 2023: “Are you definitely supporting [READ NAME] to be the Republican Party’s nominee, or would you consider supporting another candidate?” 51% definite, 42% would consider another, 7% don’t know/no first choice.

[QUESTIONS 7 & 8 WERE ROTATED]

7.How would you feel if Donald Trump became the Republican nominee – enthusiastic, satisfied, dissatisfied, or upset?

Response:Jan.
2024
Enthusiastic39%
 Satisfied30%
Dissatisfied 9%
Upset20%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(815)

8.How would you feel if Nikki Haley became the Republican nominee – enthusiastic, satisfied, dissatisfied, or upset?

Response:Jan.
2024
Enthusiastic20%
 Satisfied34%
Dissatisfied 24%
Upset19%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(815)

9.What’s more important to you – that Republicans nominate the presidential candidate whose positions on the issues come closest to yours or the candidate who seems most likely to defeat Joe Biden in November? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

Response:Jan.
2024
Whose positions on the issues come closest to yours62%
Who seems most likely to defeat Joe Biden in November33%
(VOL) Don’t know5%
(n)(815)

[QUESTIONS 10 & 11 WERE ROTATED]

10.If Donald Trump became the Republican nominee, do you think he would definitely beat Joe Biden in November, probably beat Biden, probably lose to Biden, or definitely lose to Biden?

Response:Jan.
2024
Definitely beat42%
 Probably beat29%
Probably lose14%
Definitely lose11%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
(n)(815)

11.If Nikki Haley became the Republican nominee, do you think she would definitely beat Joe Biden in November, probably beat Biden, probably lose to Biden, or definitely lose to Biden?

Response:Jan.
2024
Definitely beat21%
 Probably beat42%
Probably lose21%
Definitely lose11%
(VOL) Don’t know5%
(n)(815)

12.Who do you trust more to handle [READ ITEM] policy – Donald Trump or Nikki Haley, or do you trust both equally on this issue? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED; NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Response:
Trump

Haley
Both
equally
(VOL) Don’t
know

(n)
Immigration policy62%22%15%1%(815)
Economic policy60%21%18%1%(815)
Foreign policy54%29%17%1%(815)
Abortion policy35%26%33%6%(815)

13.Do you think abortion should be: legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, or illegal in all cases? [CHOICES WERE READ IN REVERSE ORDER FOR A RANDOM HALF SAMPLE]

Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Legal in all cases12%10%
Legal in most cases27%28%
Illegal in most cases41%45%
 Illegal in all cases14%13%
(VOL) Don’t know5%4%
(n)(815)(506)

14.How concerned, if at all, are you that the Republican Party is focusing too much on abortion – very, somewhat, not too, not at all?

Response:Jan.
2024
Very concerned23%
Somewhat concerned31%
Not too concerned25%
 Not at all concerned18%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(815)

15.Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, or do you believe that he only won it due to voter fraud?

 Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Fair and square35%36%
Due to voter fraud57%57%
(VOL) Don’t know7%7%
(n)(815)(506)

16.In his response to the 2020 presidential election, do you think Donald Trump committed a crime, did something wrong but not criminal, or did nothing wrong? [CHOICES WERE READ IN REVERSE ORDER FOR A RANDOM HALF SAMPLE]

 Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Committed a crime21%21%
Did something wrong but not criminal25%33%
Did nothing wrong50%43%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%
(n)(815)(506)

17.If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination for president and then is convicted of a crime for his response to the 2020 presidential election, do you think the Republican Party should keep Trump or replace Trump as their presidential candidate? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

  Trend:Jan.
2024
Sept.
2023
Keep Trump60%51%
Replace Trump36%43%
(VOL) Don’t know4%6%
(n)(815)(506)

18.If Trump is convicted of a crime and remains the Republican Party candidate in November, for whom would you vote for president – Donald Trump, Joe Biden, another candidate, or would you not vote? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Response:Jan.
2024
Donald Trump62%
Joe Biden17%
Another candidate15%
Would not vote4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(815)

19.Do you think Senator Tim Scott should have endorsed Donald Trump, should have endorsed Nikki Haley, or should have not endorsed anyone in the Republican primary for president? [FIRST TWO CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

Response:Jan.
2024
Endorsed Donald Trump50%
Endorsed Nikki Haley24%
Not have endorsed anyone16%
(VOL) Don’t know10%
(n)(815)

20.Did you happen to vote in the Republican primary in 2016 when Donald Trump ran against Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Ben Carson, or did you skip that primary? [If YES:] Which candidate did you vote for in the 2016 primary? [Vote choice is reported only for voters validated as participating in the 2016 primary.]

Response:Jan.
2024
Donald Trump30%
Marco Rubio4%
Ted Cruz4%
Jeb Bush2%
John Kasich2%
Ben Carson3%
(VOL) Someone else0%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
Do not recall voting5%
Not voted per registration list48%
(n)(815)

21.Did you happen to vote in the 2020 general election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, or did you skip that election? [If YES:] Who did you vote for? [Vote choice is reported only for voters validated as participating in the 2020 election.]

Response:Jan.
2024
Donald Trump60%
Joe Biden16%
(VOL) Someone else1%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
Do not recall voting2%
Not voted per registration list18%
(n)(815)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University-Washington Post Poll was conducted from January 26 to 30, 2024, among a probability-based sample of 1,045 South Carolina voters who have voted in at least one Republican primary election since 2016 or have newly registered since the 2020 election and not voted in a primary. The poll was conducted in English, and included 232 live landline telephone interviews, 401 live cell phone interviews, and 412 online surveys via a cell phone text invitation. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research using telephone numbers randomly selected from a list of voters obtained from Aristotle. The full sample is weighted for region, age, gender and race based on the voter list and education based on US Census information (CPS and ACS one-year surveys). Results released from this poll are based on a sub-set of 815 voters who indicated they had a 50-50 chance or better of voting in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. For this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points adjusted for sample design effects (1.26). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls. The Monmouth University Polling Institute and the Washington Post jointly sponsored and conducted this poll, and are responsible for all aspects of the questionnaire and sample design as well as weighting and data analysis.

Potential primary voter demographics (weighted)

Party ID (self-reported): 44% strong Rep., 37% soft or lean Rep., 19% Ind. or Dem.

Ideology: 37% very conservative, 31% somewhat conservative, 32% moderate, liberal

Sex: 53% male, 47% female

Age: 11% 18-34, 20% 35-49, 29% 50-64, 40% 65+

Education: 33% high school or less, 27% some college, 27% 4-year degree, 13% graduate degree

White Evangelical:  54% yes, 46% no

MAGA supporter:  54% yes, 46% no

Race: 87% White, 8% Black, 5% Hispanic/Asian/other

Income:  28% <$50K, 29% $50-<100K, 43% $100K+

Voted in 2016 GOP primary: 52% yes, 48% no

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.