Donald Trump remains the top choice among S.C. Republicans, according to the first poll released since voting in the 2016 presidential race began earlier this month.

The New York billionaire was supported by 36 percent of the likely GOP primary voters polled, well ahead of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has second at 20 percent, according to Opinion Savvy.

The margin between Trump and Cruz is similar to the past four S.C. polls taken since mid-December. Trump leads among voters identifying themselves as evangelicals, moderates and very conservative.

Trump has led in S.C. polls since late July. The Republican primary is Feb. 20.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida remains third at 15 percent, similar to his recent S.C. poll performances.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush placed fourth at 11 percent, a little higher than other recent polls.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich received a boost from his second-place finish Tuesday in New Hampshire, rising to 9 percent, his highest showing in a S.C. poll. Previously, Kasich never received more than 4 percent backing in the Palmetto State.

Retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson fell to sixth at 5 percent in the poll, his worst S.C. showing since April — the month before he formally joined the race.

Every four years, presidential candidates descend upon South Carolina in hopes of securing the state’s favor. For the right, winning the Palmetto state is almost a sure indicator of the party’s nomination. For the left, it signals the support of a critical group: black voters. (Video by Brittany Peterson / McClatchy)

S.C. poll

Donald Trump remains the leader in S.C., according to an Opinion Savvy poll of 779 likely GOP primary voters

Trump: 36%

Cruz: 20%

Rubio: 15%

Bush: 11%

Kasich: 9%

Carson: 5%

Undecided: 5.2%

NOTE: Results rounded to nearest whole number


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