South Carolina poll: Donald Trump’s lead over Ron DeSantis narrows, but still significant

Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate GOP voters in South Carolina, with a more than 15-percentage-point lead over former Gov. Ron DeSantis. But his lead has narrowed since last month, a National Public Affairs (NPA) poll shows.

The survey of 590 likely South Carolina 2024 Presidential Primary voters from May 15-17 shows Trump capturing 38% support, down from 43% in April. Meanwhile, DeSantis posted 23% support in the May results, up from 21% in the April poll.

Only former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, also of South Carolina, land in double digits in the most recent poll, which was not commissioned by any candidate or committee. Haley showed 15% support, down from 19% in April. Scott posted 10% support, up from 7% in April.

Former Vice President Mike Pence (2%), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (2%) and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (3%) are all polling at the bottom of the barrel.

The latest poll results of the early-voting state come as DeSantis is expected to make his presidential bid official Wednesday night, during a Twitter Spaces discussion with Elon Musk at 6 p.m., NBC News first reported.

“It is clear from this survey that the ballot from last month remains stable despite an enormous amount of pro-DeSantis television spend in that time period,” National Public Affairs Partner Justin Clark said.

“Even though this spend has not converted to ballot share for Governor DeSantis, several factors — including President Trump’s overall ballot and movement in candidate consideration from April — bear watching in next month’s survey.”

The survey explores some alternative ballot scenarios, including with Haley excluded.

Under that scenario, it is Scott who benefits the most, with a 7-point bump in support. DeSantis follows with a 3-percentage-point boost. But even then, Trump still dominates the field with a 10-percentage-point jump on DeSantis at 36% support to 26%. Undecideds creep up slightly, giving DeSantis some room for optimism, at 10%.

Another scenario excludes Scott from the race, but includes Haley. There, Haley gets a 5-percentage-point boost, and comes within 5 percentage points of DeSantis (25% to 20%). Under that scenario, Haley actually ties Trump among independent voters, at 24% support each, with DeSantis at 16%. South Carolina’s Primary is open, meaning any voter can cast a ballot in any one party’s Primary.

The NPA poll also looks at candidate consideration among voters, or whether they would consider voting for a particular candidate. This question is a powerful tool for evaluating voter sentiment in Presidential Primaries, which tend to be fluid as Primary season draws near.

Here, DeSantis performs well. He trails Trump significantly in voters who say they will almost certainly cast a ballot for him — at 23% to Trump’s 37%. But DeSantis has a significant lead among voters who say they would strongly or somewhat consider voting for him, at 46% to 25%.

This tracks with Trump’s historic support, which has shown a consistent base with very little movement among those supporters. It also means Trump’s share of voters who almost certainly or somewhat would not consider voting for him much larger than DeSantis’, at 33% to 21%.

Under this metric, Scott is the closest to DeSantis among voters who are almost certainly or would strongly or somewhat consider voting for him, with only 16% in the almost certainly category, but 49% in the strongly or somewhat consider category.

On issues, GOP voters remain in agreement that the U.S. is spending too much to support Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, at 49%. Only 26% say the U.S. is right on target with its spending, while even fewer, 12%, say the U.S. should spend more. The remaining 13% are unsure.

And the polling shows DeSantis’ feud with Disney isn’t hurting him among GOP voters. A full 51% of respondents said they will no longer consume Disney products, giving Disney’s opposition to conservative policies in Florida. Only 31% say they will continue to consume Disney products, while 19% say they never have.

In a nod to Trump’s consistent base of support, 33% of respondents say they have stopped watching Fox News since Tucker Carlson’s abrupt departure. But more than half, 53%, are continuing to watch the network.

In a potential signal to current members of Congress, 61% of respondents said the U.S. should not increase its debt limit, even if it means default — an outcome economists say would be catastrophic to the U.S. economy. Only 23% said lawmakers should vote to increase the debt limit and avoid default under any circumstance. The remaining 16% were unsure.

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