Fox Poll: Trump Leads by 13 in South Carolina As Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio Gain

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign event on February 16, 2016 in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The latest Fox News poll of South Carolina shows Donald Trump holding his lead there, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have gained support in the final days of the campaign.

Trump leads with 32 percent support, followed by Cruz with 19 percent and Rubio with 15 percent.

Cruz has gained 5 points since the last Fox poll of the state, back in December. Trump has lost 3 points since December in the state, while Rubio has picked up just 1 point. Ben Carson, who was in second place in the December poll, has seen his support drop 6 points.

Carson is currently tied with Jeb Bush for fourth with 9 percent support. John Kasich trails the field with just 6 percent support.

The poll, which was conducted Monday through Wednesday–after the presidential debate last weekend–suggests a tightening race in South Carolina, compared with other recent polls. It shows Trump still enjoying a broad lead in the state just ahead of its primary, which is Saturday.

Among voters who’ve decided on a candidate, Trump’s backers are strongest in their commitment to him. More than 80 percent of them say they are certain in their vote for him, only 17 percent of his supporters say they could still change their mind. In contrast, 74 percent of Cruz’s backers and 71 percent of Rubio’s say they their minds are made up.

Combining first and second choices in the race, the contest narrows, with Trump leading (41 percent), followed by Cruz (35) and Rubio (32). Even combining first and second choice, the other three candidates trail badly.

The final outcome in South Carolina will revolve around what the Republican electorate looks like on election day. Trump leads by most among men, voters without a college degree, voters over 45 and voters earning more than $50k a year.

Trump leads Cruz among evangelicals by 8 points, although Cruz edges Trump among “very conservative” voters by 2 points. Evangelical and “very conservative” voters are two of the biggest voting blocks traditionally in South Carolina. Historically, more than 60 percent of voters are evangelicals, which gives an enormous advantage to Trump.

The poll does contain a small warning for Trump, however. The number of Republican voters who say they couldn’t support him as the nominee has jumped to 39 percent. That is up a rather large 15 points since December.

In addition, when asked if any candidate has attacked his opponents unfairly, 47 percent say Trump has. That is far more than any other candidate, including Cruz, whose campaign has been attacked by a number of candidates. Only 28 percent of Republicans say Cruz has attacked his opponents unfairly.

Neither of these numbers will likely affect the outcome of Saturday’s vote, but they do suggest that Trump’s scorched-earth primary campaign is inflicting some damage on his candidacy. He may be erecting a ceiling for his support.