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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, leaves after a campaign event at Chick-Fil-A, in Anderson, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, on South Carolina's Republican primary election day.

WASHINGTON — Preliminary results from an exit poll of South Carolina voters show that Newt Gingrich is getting strong support from more conservative voters and those most worried about the nation's weak economy.

The former House speaker is also doing well among people who say they chose their candidate in the last few days and who say the candidates' debates played a big role in deciding how to vote.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is showing more strength among voters who are more moderate, older and higher earners. He was also doing better among those who are not born again or evangelical Christians and among people who selected a candidate less recently.

Gingrich had a slight edge among voters looking for a candidate who could defeat President Barack Obama this fall.