Mar 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis shows early state strength in Iowa and N.H. polls


DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters this month. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Two new polls from a top Republican polling firm — provided exclusively to Axios — find Florida Gov. DeSantis is running more competitively with former President Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire than he is faring in national surveys.

Driving the news: The surveys, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies from March 21 to 23 for an outside client (not a candidate or super PAC) found DeSantis leading Trump by eight points (45%-37%) in a head-to-head matchup in Iowa and tied with Trump (39%-39%) in New Hampshire.

  • In a more crowded field including Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, DeSantis was tied with Trump in Iowa and trailed him by 12 points in New Hampshire.

Why it matters: National polling has shown Trump significantly ahead of DeSantis, but these polls suggest DeSantis is performing better in the early states where voters pay closer attention.

Between the lines: DeSantis' overall image is the strongest of all the prospective GOP candidates in both states.

  • In Iowa, his favorability/unfavorability rating was a sterling 81%-11%. Trump's was 74%-24%. Haley's fav/unfav stood at 60%-19%, and former Vice President Mike Pence's was 59%-35%.
  • In New Hampshire, DeSantis' favorability rating was 77%-15%, while Trump's was 69%-29%. Haley was at 54%-23%, while Pence's rating was a middling 50%-43%.

Reality check: There was one warning sign for DeSantis in the polling: Many Republican voters didn't see him as the "best candidate to defeat Joe Biden" — a proxy for electability.

  • In New Hampshire, only 48% viewed DeSantis as the better candidate to defeat Biden, while 46% thought Trump was more electable. In Iowa, 54% viewed DeSantis as more electable, compared to 44% for Trump.
  • Trump's biggest weakness was on temperament: 68% of Iowa Republicans rated DeSantis as having a better temperament than Trump, while 71% said the same in New Hampshire.
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