In the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, former President Donald J. Trump is leading by a significant margin, according to the first New York Times/Siena College poll of the campaign. Trump is ahead of his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, by 37 percentage points among likely Republican primary voters. The survey indicates that Trump has widespread support across various demographic groups, regions, and ideological wings of the party. Despite concerns about his legal troubles, Republican voters are overwhelmingly backing Trump. He enjoys strong support among both men and women, younger and older voters, moderates and conservatives, and residents of different areas.
The poll also reveals that DeSantis’s central campaign arguments – that he is more electable and a more effective governor – have not resonated with Republican voters. Even those who are motivated by issues emphasized by DeSantis, such as fighting “radical woke ideology,” still prefer Trump. Overall, Trump leads DeSantis 54% to 17%. No other candidate garners more than 3% support.
The survey highlights some troubling signs for DeSantis. He performs poorly among key Republican constituencies, such as voters over 65 years old and those without a college degree. Even among self-described “very conservative” Republicans, Trump leads by a significant margin. While there are no significant challengers to Trump besides DeSantis, other potential candidates like Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott only receive 3% support.
Even in a hypothetical one-on-one match against Trump, DeSantis would still lose by a large margin, 62% to 31%. This indicates that Trump would likely defeat any unified opposition. The survey was conducted before the first primary contest and any debates, and Trump’s legal troubles add an element of unpredictability to the race.
However, Trump currently aligns with the mood of the Republican electorate, as the majority believes the country is heading in the wrong direction and wants a candidate who can take the fight to the Democrats. Many respondents expressed their support for Trump, highlighting his ability to deliver results. Trump and DeSantis both maintain strong favorable ratings among Republicans. While DeSantis is well-liked, Trump’s support is more intense, with 43% of Republicans having a “very favorable” opinion of him compared to 25% for DeSantis.
In interviews with poll respondents, a common theme emerges – they like DeSantis but love Trump. Trump’s grip on the party is strong, with him still receiving significant support even among those who believe he has committed serious federal crimes. DeSantis’s focus on fighting “woke” ideology also does not sway voters, as the majority still prefer Trump.
DeSantis’s appeal lies in his ability to defeat Joe Biden and enact a conservative agenda. However, the poll shows that a large majority of Republicans believe it is Trump who is best suited to beat Biden and get things done. DeSantis narrowly edges Trump on being seen as “likable” and “moral,” but Trump is perceived as more fun.
Currently, DeSantis’s demographic support is limited, primarily in more affluent areas. Among primary voters earning less than $50,000, Trump has a commanding lead over DeSantis. Although DeSantis emphasizes his “blue-collar” roots and military service, these factors have not significantly boosted his support.
Overall, the poll indicates that Trump is in a dominant position within the Republican Party, with a strong likelihood of winning the nomination. DeSantis and other potential challengers have failed to gain significant traction against him.