CNN will host town hall meetings with the GOP presidential candidates in South Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. ET

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In the Republican race, Trump, at 38%, tops Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds second place with 22%

Likely voters in the Democratic primary tilt sharply toward Clinton over Sanders, 56% for Clinton to 38% for Sanders

Washington CNN  — 

Donald Trump holds a broad 16-point lead among those likely to vote in South Carolina’s Republican primary this Saturday, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton tops Bernie Sanders by 18 points in the state’s Democratic primary, which will be held a week later.

In the Republican race, Trump, at 38%, tops Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds second place with 22%. Behind those two, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio garners 14% support, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is at 10%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 6% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 4%.

Trump’s lead is bolstered by widespread perceptions of him as the candidate best able to handle the economy, immigration and ISIS, and further, that he has the best chance to win in November and would be most likely to change the way things work in Washington.


Voters in South Carolina are less apt to say they trust Trump on social issues and on foreign policy, yet he is still near the top of the list of preferred candidates even on those issues.

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Trump holds an even broader lead among white evangelical voters in the state, who typically make up a majority of Republican primary voters. He tops Cruz by nearly 20 points among this group: 42% Trump, 23% Cruz, 14% Rubio, 9% Bush, 5% Carson and 1% Kasich.

But voters’ views on the contest aren’t universally settled: About half of those likely to vote in Saturday’s primary say they’ve already decided whom to support, the rest are leaning or still deciding.

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The poll suggests Trump’s support may have softened after Saturday’s debate among the GOP candidates. In interviews conducted before the debate, 40% backed Trump, compared with 31% who said they supported him after the raucous matchup between the remaining candidates in the field. Two candidates who attempted to remain above the fray in the debate – Carson and Kasich – each appeared to get a bump in the post-debate interviews, though the increase for both candidates was within the margin of sampling error for the post-debate interviews.

Black voters, women power Clinton to big lead

Likely voters in the Democratic primary in the Palmetto State, set to be held Saturday, February 27, tilt sharply toward Clinton over Sanders, 56% for Clinton to 38% for Sanders.

Clinton’s lead rests heavily on the state’s black voters and women. Both groups made up a majority of voters in the 2008 primary there. Among black voters, she leads 65% to 28%, and among women, she leads 60% to 33%. White voters break in Sanders’ favor, 54% for the Vermont senator to 40% for the former secretary of state, while men are about evenly divided between the two, 49% Clinton to 45% Sanders.

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Still, Democratic voters in South Carolina aren’t as firm in their choices as Democrats in New Hampshire or Iowa were, according to pre-election polling. In surveys ahead of the first two contests, majorities said they had made up their minds. In South Carolina, however, just 43% say they have definitely decided whom to support with about 10 days to go before Election Day. Potentially troublesome for Clinton: Blacks were far less likely to say they are committed to a candidate than whites. About a third of black voters (34%) say they have decided on a candidate versus nearly 6 in 10 white voters (57%).

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On the issues, the survey finds Clinton holding wide advantages over Sanders. She is seen as the candidate better able to handle foreign policy, health care, race relations and the economy by margins of 20 points or more. She holds a slimmer 6-point edge over Sanders on gun policy.

Across all domestic issues tested in the poll, however, there are broad racial gaps in candidate trust, with majorities of blacks saying they trust Clinton more on each issue. Whites generally break for Sanders, though are evenly split on who would better handle race relations. Majorities across racial lines choose Clinton as better able to handle foreign policy.

The racial divide is perhaps starkest on core Democratic values. Asked which candidate better represents “the values of Democrats like yourself,” nearly two-thirds of whites choose Sanders over Clinton on that measure, while 7 in 10 blacks choose Clinton. And when assessing who would do more to help the middle class, 69% of blacks say Clinton would, while 66% of whites say Sanders would.

Majorities of both blacks (75%) and whites (58%) see Clinton as better able to win in November.

The CNN/ORC South Carolina poll was conducted by telephone February 10-15 among a random sample of 1,006 adult residents of the state. Results among the 404 likely Republican primary voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. For results among the 280 likely Democratic primary voters, it is plus or minus 6 percentage points.