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Fox News Voter Analysis: Trump Bests Haley in Her Home State


Donald Trump completed a clean sweep of the first three Republican nominating contests by cruising to a 20-point victory over Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Haley, a native of the Palmetto State and a former governor, pledged to continue her presidential campaign through the Super Tuesday primaries on March 5th despite the loss.

The results of the Fox News Voter Analysis, a survey of more than 2,400 South Carolina Republican primary voters, show Trump’s dominance with the party base—as well as divides within the party that could affect both the remaining primaries and the general election.

South Carolina has an open primary, meaning any voter can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary, regardless of which party they typically support. Still, most voters (87%) considered themselves Republicans, and Trump won this group by 33 points—just as he did in New Hampshire (Trump +33 points).

Haley was buoyed by support from independents (+29 points) and Democrats (+88 points), though both made up relatively small portions of the primary electorate.

The ideological divides within the party were on full display. Haley won moderates by 26 points, essentially the same as her 25-point edge with moderates in the Granite State. Trump’s margin with self-described ‘somewhat conservative’ voters was narrower than it was in New Hampshire (18 points vs. 25 points), as was his advantage among very conservative voters (+62 points vs. +67 points).

Nearly 6-in-10 voters (58%) considered themselves part of the Make America Great Again movement, and the vast majority of them went for Trump.

It was a different story among non-MAGA voters, who backed Haley by 51 points.

In addition to the ideological fault lines, primary voters were sharply divided along educational lines. Trump continued to dominate among those without a college degree (+37 points), much as he did in New Hampshire (+32 points) and Iowa (+49 points).

College-educated voters favored Haley by 9 points, notably less than her 22-point advantage in New Hampshire. 

Trump continued to show significant strength among rural voters, winning by 32 points. The race was closer in the suburbs (Trump +6 points).

White evangelical Christians were another significant source of strength for the former president—and made up half of the electorate (49%).

Despite his controversial comments attacking Haley’s husband—who is currently deployed overseas with the South Carolina Army National Guard—for not being more visible on the campaign trail, Trump won military households by a 28-point margin.

Haley launched her bid for the presidency with a call for cognitive tests for presidential candidates and has repeatedly questioned Trump’s mental fitness over the course of the campaign. By an 8-point margin, more voters felt she has the mental capacity to serve effectively as president than felt that way about Trump.

Voters were more likely to think Trump would keep the country safe by 14 points (76% said Trump would and 62% said Haley would) and fight for people like them by 19 points (Trump 74%, Haley 55%).

On the all-important question of being able to win in November, Trump had a resounding 30-point advantage.

A clear majority thinks Trump should have won in 2020, as 58% believe Joe Biden was not the legitimate winner four years ago. Trump won these voters by a 70-point margin; Haley won those who believe Biden won legitimately by 53 points.

At the same time, half were concerned that Trump is too extreme to win the general election, including 31% who were very concerned.

Far fewer (33%) worried that Haley was too extreme, including 14% very concerned.

These concerns may explain why 6-in-10 Haley voters (59%) say they would not support Trump in the general election if he were the nominee; very few of her supporters (12%) would be satisfied if he were the nominee.

A majority of Trump voters would ultimately back Haley if she wins the primary; 44% would not.

In a sign of the modest boost Haley got from those who did not align with the Republican Party, 8% of her voters said they would not support her if she were the nominee. By comparison, all of Trump’s supporters (99%) would back him in the fall if he wins the primary.

Most Trump voters (89%) described their decision as a vote for their preferred candidate rather than against Haley. Haley voters, on the other hand, were split: 53% cast their ballot as a mark in her favor; 47% as a vote against Trump.

Overall, majorities held favorable views of Trump, Haley, and Senator Tim Scott (who dropped out of the presidential race in November and endorsed Trump before the New Hampshire primary). Views of South Carolina’s other Senator, Republican Lindsey Graham, were less favorable.

As it has been in each Republican primary thus far, immigration was the top issue on voters’ minds, with the economy second.

Most primary voters (83%) supported building a wall along the southern border and felt immigrants generally hurt the country (74%) rather than help it (22%).

Immigration voters were a major source of strength for Trump (+51 points), much as they were in New Hampshire (+48 points). 

Trump also held a significant edge among those who felt the economy was the most important issue (+21 points).

His advantage on the issue was powered by the 29% who said they were falling behind financially (Trump +43 points), while the race was somewhat closer among those breaking even (Trump +18 points).

The relatively small group of voters who said they were getting ahead financially backed Haley by 33 points.

Haley also had a major advantage (+52 points) among those who saw foreign policy as the most important issue facing the country—but they accounted for just 8% of the electorate.

Trump’s comments on NATO—suggesting he would tell Russia to do ‘whatever they want’ to members of the alliance that did not meet their obligations to spend on national defense—caused a stir on the campaign trail. Most primary voters (75%) said being a NATO member is good for the U.S., with 35% saying membership was a very good thing.

Those who saw the alliance as very good for the U.S. backed Haley by 28 points, while those who felt it was only somewhat good went for Trump by a similar margin (+31 points). Almost all of those who felt NATO has been a bad deal for the U.S. backed Trump.

Haley and Trump also diverged on their support for aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and voters split as well.

Voters who opposed aid to Ukraine backed Trump by 55 points; those who favored aid aligned with Haley (+19 points).

Military aid to Israel in the fight against Hamas was notably less divisive.

In sum, half preferred the U.S. take a less active role in solving the world’s problems—and this group backed Trump by 43 points. He also won those who felt the country should be more active on the world stage (+29 points), while those who felt the current U.S. approach was about right backed Haley (+21 points).

Trump has recently been said to signal openness to a national ban on abortion after 16 weeks of pregnancy. Three-quarters of South Carolina Republicans would be on board with a similar approach.

Notably, fewer (55%) would back a ban after six weeks of pregnancy.

All told, a majority said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases—and these voters backed Trump by 44 points. Haley won those who felt abortion should be legal by a narrower 17-point margin.

Despite recent court rulings against him, Trump’s legal troubles do not appear to be a significant drag on his primary prospects. One-quarter thinks the charges he faces are legitimate investigations into potential wrongdoing, while far more view them as politically motivated attacks.

In addition, one-quarter or less think Trump did something illegal with regard to his possession of classified documents (27%), his actions with regard to the vote count in 2020 (26%), or the events of January 6, 2021 (20%).

The Fox News Voter Analysis is a survey of more than 2,400 South Carolina Republican primary voters conducted February 20-24, 2024. Full methodological details are available here.

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