Donald Trump has opened up significant leads in recent polls of the GOP presidential primary. But our new polling shows that Trump’s lead is less firm than the margins suggest.
In a new nationwide survey of 1,208 registered voters, Change Research asked the sample’s 404 likely 2024 Republican presidential primary voters how they would vote in the GOP primary. Instead of asking GOP primary voters to choose just one candidate, we asked them to choose ALL the candidates they approve of – a system of voting called Approval Voting.
The results show that just about as many GOP voters would choose DeSantis as would choose Trump.
Overall, 75% would vote for Trump on an approval voting ballot, while 67% would vote for DeSantis – both far higher than any other likely candidate. These numbers make it clear that, even if Trump is currently more voters’ preferred candidate in a head-to-head match-up, DeSantis is still quite popular and should not be written off.
Just 19% of Republican primary voters would only vote for Donald Trump (“only Trump” voters), while 12% would only vote for DeSantis (“only DeSantis” voters).
The majority of Republican primary voters, 55%, would vote for both Trump AND DeSantis if given the choice. Only 14% of Republican primary voters say they would not vote for either Trump or DeSantis. Among the neither-DeSantis-nor-Trump voters, Nikki Haley has a slight lead, with 37% choosing her, 27% choosing Mike Pence, and 26% choosing Chris Christie.
“Neither Trump nor DeSantis” primary voters voted for Trump in 2020 by a 43-35 margin. However, if Trump is the candidate against President Biden in a 2024 rematch, this group would now favor Biden by 40-36. However, “Neither Trump nor DeSantis” primary voters would favor DeSantis over Biden 54-37 in a 2024 general election match-up against President Biden.
Among “Only Trump” and “Only DeSantis” voters, most say they would still vote for the other candidate over President Biden. Roughly 20% would be undecided if their chosen candidate does not win the nomination. While very few of “Only Trump” or “Only DeSantis” voters would consider voting for Biden, some would consider not voting or voting for a third-party candidate.
While the political obituaries that have been written about DeSantis may be premature, his favorability has still decreased significantly in recent months. In a November 2022 nationwide survey Change Research conducted of 2,015 voters, Change Research found that 74% of Republicans felt very favorably about DeSantis – 20 percentage points higher than the number who felt similarly about Trump. Now, only 42% of Republicans feel very favorably about the Florida Governor, while Trump’s numbers have shifted by only a few points.
Among all voters nationwide, DeSantis’s favorability has fallen from 44% in our November poll to 33% now, and the number viewing him very favorably has halved, to 19%. These numbers suggest vulnerability for DeSantis in a potential general election.