South Carolina Republican voters broadly see former President Donald Trump as more electable than former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, prefer him to handle the economy and border security alike and are more apt to say they’d be satisfied with him as their party’s nominee — all signaling Haley’s challenges in her home-state GOP primary on Saturday, preliminary exit poll results show.

Seventy-two percent in the preliminary results would be satisfied with Trump as the nominee vs. 41% satisfied with Haley.

Voters also prefer Trump to handle the economy over Haley, 70-28%, and border security, 73-25%. And 83% say Trump is likely to win in November vs. 55% who say the same of Haley, indicating South Carolina primary voters were not persuaded by a key part of Haley’s campaign pitch.

Indeed, 63% of South Carolina Republican voters see Trump as “very” likely to defeat President Joe Biden in November vs. just 24% who say the same about Haley.

Sixty-five percent in these preliminary results also say they’d see Trump as fit to be president even if he were convicted of a crime; 32% would not see him as fit for office.

There was a closer 54-42% split on this question in New Hampshire’s primary, where Haley came within 11 points of Trump. It was 65-31% in the Iowa caucuses, which Trump won by a record margin. (He faces 91 charges and denies all wrongdoing, pleading not guilty.)

Much of Trump’s advantage in South Carolina is structural: Sixty-one percent of Republican voters identify themselves as evangelical white Christians, who’ve become a core support group for Trump; this compares with 19% in New Hampshire. And 80% of Saturday’s voters are conservatives, including 43% very conservative, again a boon to the former president.

Haley, for her part, has done best in previous contests with independents and moderates, two comparatively hard-to-find groups among South Carolina’s Republican primary voters. Twenty-seven percent are independents in these preliminary results, compared with 44% in New Hampshire. And 20% in are moderates or liberals vs. 33% in New Hampshire.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballot at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church during the Republican presidential primary in Columbia, South Carolina, Feb. 24, 2024.

Voters cast their ballot at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church during the Republican presidential primary in Columbia, South Carolina, Feb. 24, 2024.

Sam Wolfe/Reuters

The conservative bent of South Carolina Republican primary voters is reflected in other attitudes, the preliminary results show. Seventy percent say most unauthorized immigrants in the United States should be deported. Sixty-five percent falsely think Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election. Fifty-four percent say they would favor a federal law banning all or most abortions nationwide. And, with Biden as president, 88% are dissatisfied or angry at the way things are going in the country, including 46 percent angry.

Demonstrating his appeal in the state’s primary, 91% of Trump voters in these preliminary results say they mainly voted for their candidate, rather than against their opponent.

Among Haley voters, by contrast, 59% mainly support her; 40% voted mainly to oppose Trump.

At the same time, in one underwhelming preliminary result for Trump, just about half of voters, 45%, identify themselves as “part of the MAGA movement” that he started.

That said, Haley’s campaign pitch questioning Trump’s age — and her call for mental competency tests for candidates older than 75 — doesn’t seem to have swayed many voters. In fact, more say in these preliminary results that Trump has the physical and mental health needed to serve effectively as president, 72%, than say so for Haley, 60%.

In a list of four issues, 41% say immigration was most important in their vote, 31% select the economy, 11% foreign policy and 10% abortion.

On the economy, just 22% say they’re getting ahead financially. And 46% rate the national economy as “poor,” more than in New Hampshire (38%), and a very strong Trump group there.

Among four candidate attributes, 37% say they’re mainly looking for a candidate who “fights for people like me,” 33% for one who shares their values, 13% for the right temperament and an additional 13% for the candidate best able to defeat Biden.

Another preliminary result shows the extent to which vote preferences have been locked in place: Seventy-eight percent say they chose their candidate last year.

These results will be updated.

Source link