Latest Winthrop Poll Results: Trump Top Choice for Republican Presidential Nomination in SC, Support for Israel, and More

November 15, 2023


  • With just over three months until the GOP Presidential Primary, the former president retains the majority of Republican support at 52%. 
  • Consistent with last month’s Winthrop Poll findings, 17% of Republican registered voters in the state support former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s nomination, while 12% support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Donald Trump remains the top choice of South Carolina Republican registered voters for the Republican Party presidential nomination among the narrowing field of contenders, according to the latest Winthrop Poll results. With just over three months until the GOP Presidential Primary, the former president retains the majority of Republican support at 52%. 

Consistent with last month’s poll findings, 17% of Republican registered voters in the state support former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s nomination, while 12% support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Winthrop Poll Director Scott Huffmon noted, “Haley continues her steady lead over DeSantis for the distant second choice among South Carolina Republicans. However, the Miami GOP debate occurred in the middle of our polling, so we may not have picked up whether she received any bump from her debate performance."

"Former Governor Haley does a couple of percentage points better when Independents who lean Republicans are included in the mix. Unfortunately for her campaign, it is harder to get this group to the polls in a primary, so the question becomes how much money is it worth to spend to reach this group. With Tim Scott’s surprising departure from the race, Haley will see how many ‘favorite son’ voters can be converted to ‘favorite daughter’ voters. This should give Haley a little more room in seeking non-Trump endorsements from Republican politicians and leaders in the state. With Haley in a steady second, further growth in her South Carolina support may depend on getting those former Tim Scott voters on board early and showing strength and momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire. Even with those pieces of the puzzle falling into place, overcoming Trump’s commanding lead is a very tall order.”

Support for U.S. Senator Tim Scott increased from 6% last month to 10% this month, just as he suspended his campaign on the final day of this poll. Combined support for businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum totaled 5%. 

Huffmon stated, “Tim Scott’s departure from the race seems to have surprised many in his own campaign as well as his good friend Trey Gowdy, on whose show he made the announcement. Scott’s announcement came just as we finished the last night of polling. Sen. Scott had clawed his way to low double digit support in South Carolina, but this still had him in a distant fourth place, although he was gaining on DeSantis."

"While Scott was slowly gaining traction in South Carolina, he was unable to pick up much support in Iowa and New Hampshire. He also seemed to remain an unknown quantity to most national Republicans. Significant losses in the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, not to mention his home state, may have dampened Scott’s future ambitions. Whether considering the veepstakes, a gubernatorial run, or remaining in the Senate, significant losses in these contests would have been a drag on those plans.” 

Approval Ratings and Favorability
Fifty-nine percent of registered voters in South Carolina disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president. Among Republicans, 6% approve while 90% disapprove. Among Democrats, 73% approve while 15% disapprove.  

Half of all respondents approve of the way Henry McMaster is handling his job as governor of South Carolina. When it comes to how U.S. Senators for South Carolina are handling their jobs, 36% approve of Lindsey Graham and 52% approve of Tim Scott

Huffmon added, “Both Governor McMaster and Senator Scott enjoy approval from at least three-quarters of Republicans. It is notable that, while Senator Graham retains strong majority support from South Carolina Republicans, it is 18 points lower than his fellow South Carolina Senator.”

Haley – still a prominent figure in the state, especially with her ongoing presidential campaign – is viewed as very or somewhat favorable by 59% of South Carolina registered voters. Among Republicans, this percentage increases to 71%. Donald Trump is less favorable among all registered voters in the state with 45% viewing him as very or somewhat favorable but is slightly more favorable than Haley among Republicans at 77%. Though slightly less favorable within the Republican Party, Haley is less polarizing than Trump with far more Democrats holding a favorable view of her than of Trump. 

According to Huffmon, “While Haley is less polarizing than Trump among all registered voters in South Carolina, it is questionable as to whether or not she can capitalize on this in the Republican Presidential Primary. Those who vote in primaries tend to be the most ardent partisans with fewer independents who lean toward your party showing up. The two ways Haley can use the fact that she is less polarizing to the electoral base that knows her best is to maximize turnout among Republican leaning Independents and to convince strong partisans that this is the exact reason she has a better chance at defeating Biden in the general election.”

Israel and Palestine
Regarding the ongoing situation in the Middle East, most respondents (58%) say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Republicans are far more sympathetic to the Israelis than are Democrats. Democrats are more split on the issue than are Republicans, though a plurality still has greater sympathy for the Israelis. No matter the party, the percentages of those who are unsure are higher than the percentages for those whose sympathies lie more with the Palestinians. 

According to Huffmon, “The solid majority of South Carolina registered voters sympathize more with Israel in their war against Hamas in Gaza. 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. 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.”

When asked about national support for Israel, 64% believe it is in the United States’ interest to support them during this conflict. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats agree. 

Huffmon noted, “Regardless of how they feel about the current conflict in Gaza, the majority of South Carolina registered voters believe it is our overall interest to continue support and foreign aid to Israel.”

Confederate Monuments and Flag
Thinking about what to do with Confederate monuments and memorials to Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War, a plurality (36%) of respondents prefer to leave them just as they are. Thirty percent want to leave them but add a plaque or marker for context and historical interpretation. Twenty-two percent would like them moved to a museum, while only 8% want them removed completely. Among Black respondents, most (38%) want these monuments and memorials moved to a museum. 

When it comes to the Confederate battle flag, 41% think it is more a symbol of Southern pride than it is of racial conflict. White and Black respondents differed on the issue. Half of white respondents view the flag as a symbol of Southern pride while 61% of Black respondents say it is more a symbol of racial conflict. 

Huffmon noted, “The racial differences we see in questions about Confederate monuments and the Confederate battle flag are stark. Many would like to paper over these issues and ‘put it behind us.’ As our research in poll after poll shows, this divisive issue continues to simmer just beneath the surface in our state.”

See the questions, responses and methodology here.

For additional information, or to set up an interview with Scott Huffmon, please contact Judy Longshaw at or 803/323-2404 (office) or 803/984-0586 (cell).

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