Early Results

South Carolina Voters: Debates Were Influential

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP / Getty Images

Republican presidential hopefuls, former senator Rick Santorum (L), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (2nd-L), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (2nd-R) and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) participate in the CNN Southern Republican Leadership Conference Town Hall Debate in Charleston, South Carolina, January 19, 2012, in advance of this weekend's January 21, 2012 Republican presidential primary.

The Republican primary season has had no shortage of debates, but do they matter? The answer is yes, at least in South Carolina. Exit polls from the first Southern primary show that 64 percent of  the state's Republicans consider the debates a significant factor in their decision making. South Carolina voters are already living up to their conservative reputations, as early exit polls show that--not unlike the turnout in 2008--voters today have been almost all white, over the age of 45 and less than half are college graduates. Evangelical Christians have turned out at a slightly higher rate than in the past. Tea Partiers are also making a good showing.