Poll: South Carolina no longer sold on Trump; Biden lukewarm with Democrats

Just days ahead of Donald Trump’s first public 2024 presidential campaign event in the critical early primary state of South Carolina, a new poll from the South Carolina Policy Council (SCPC) shows Palmetto State voters are no longer sold on the former president. And in a head-to-head matchup with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump is behind by a whopping 19%.  

SCPC’s January voter survey was conducted by Spry Strategies using IVR, cell phone and online interviews from January 17-19 among a random sample of 637 likely South Carolina voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. SCPC is the Palmetto State’s longest-serving nonpartisan free market research organization.

Overall survey highlights
  • President Biden remains more popular with SC Democrats than Trump does with Republicans.
  • Both Trump and Biden are showing weakness with their voting base. In fact, 54% of likely 2024 SC voters agreed that “the country would be better off if neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump is elected President in 2024.” Only 30% said they disagree.
  • A majority (51%) of likely voters viewed Trump unfavorably, compared with 46% who viewed him favorably.
  • Biden is viewed unfavorably by 54% of likely voters, while only 45% viewed him favorably. Biden’s numbers have improved since SCPC’s June 2022 survey, when only 39% of likely SC voters approved of the job President Biden was doing and 59% disapproved. SCPC’s August 2022 voter survey showed just 34% approval of Mr. Biden’s job performance.
  • Biden’s current 45% favorable rating closely matches the 43% share of votes he received from Palmetto State voters in the 2020 general election.
  • Just 38% of likely SC voters said America is on the right track, while 58% said it is on the wrong track.
  • Nearly half of likely SC voters (48%) were very concerned with their family’s ability to pay their bills due to inflation and the rising costs of goods. Overall, 78% were very or somewhat concerned.

“Digging deep into the numbers and the data segregated by political party shows a clear pattern: South Carolina voters of all stripes are ready to move on from Biden and Trump,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the South Carolina Policy Council.

SC Republican voters prefer DeSantis

According to news reports, former President Donald Trump will hold his first official 2024 campaign event at the Statehouse in Columbia on Saturday, Jan. 28. He will be joined by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Henry McMaster, among other South Carolina Republican allies.

However, while some high-ranking GOP officials are publicly sticking with Trump, Republican voters across the state are jumping ship.

  • In a segregated survey of 386 likely 2024 SC Republican primary voters, only 37% said the GOP should nominate Trump in 2024, while 47% said the GOP should nominate someone else.
  • In a head-to-head matchup, a majority of likely Republican voters favored Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (52%) over former President Donald Trump (33%) by a whopping 19%.
  • While Trump was seen favorably by 72% of likely Republican voters, more than one quarter (26%) saw him unfavorably.
  • Nearly half (46%) of Republican primary voters that viewed Trump very favorably said the GOP should nominate someone else.
  • 64% of Republican voters with a somewhat favorable view of Trump said they would pick DeSantis if given the choice. 30% with a very favorable view of Trump said they prefer DeSantis.
Biden and the Democrats

As Trump is making his first campaign appearance in the Palmetto State, President Joe Biden is asking Democratic National Committee leaders to drastically reshape the 2024 presidential nominating calendar and make South Carolina the first state to host a Democratic primary.

Of the SC voters who viewed Biden very favorably, 38% still said America would be better off if neither Biden nor Trump were elected in 2024.

In a segregated survey of 251 likely 2024 SC Democratic primary voters, only 43% said their party should nominate Joe Biden for re-election in 2024, while 38% answered someone else.  

A full 20% of Democrats were unsure of whom the party should nominate. Overall, more than half (58%) of likely Democrat voters indicated they are not sold on Biden in 2024.

Should Biden not run in 2024, Democrat voters preferred the following candidates in their party’s primary:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris: 26%
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: 14%
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren: 10%
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders: 8%
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom: 6%
  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper: 2%
  • Someone else or didn’t know/unsure: 33%

Find the survey results here and crosstabs here. If you have questions about the poll or would like to arrange an interview, please email dallas@scpolicycouncil.org or call 803-779-5022.

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