Apr 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump looms over DeSantis despite voters craving new 2024 candidates: Polls

an illustration in red, white, and blue showing a percent sign, a bar graph, and upward arrows indicating an increase in poll numbers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new Wall Street Journal poll on the 2024 presidential race shatters much of the conventional wisdom about the political state of play.

Why it matters: The survey punctures many of the perceived advantages that DeSantis held against Donald Trump.

  • Asked whether Trump or DeSantis "cares about" voters more, Trump held a 14-point edge among GOP voters. More than half of Republicans felt Trump was more of a "strong leader" than DeSantis, who lagged by 32 points in that category.
  • Even electability wasn't a significant advantage for DeSantis: Just 41% of GOP primary voters believe DeSantis would have the better chance of beating Biden, while 31% said Trump would be the stronger candidate.

The big picture: The poll also suggests Trump has a path to victory against Biden, despite the former president's considerable baggage. It found that Biden's unfavorability rating is exactly the same as Trump's (57%). Nearly half of voters view both the current and former president "very unfavorably."

  • Overall, DeSantis holds a three-point advantage over Biden in a general election, while Trump trails Biden by three. Both are within the margin of error.
  • But DeSantis' small general election advantage isn't helping him in the Republican primary. After leading Trump by 14 points (52%-38%) in a head-to-head test last December, he now trails Trump by 13 points (51-38%).

Go deeper: The other important finding from the poll that runs against the conventional narrative is that Biden's disapproval rating isn't quite as bad as it looks at the surface level.

  • Biden's overall unfavorability rating is an abysmal 57%. But while 49% view Biden "very unfavorably," the 8% that view him "somewhat unfavorably" also are overwhelmingly Biden voters.
  • Biden leads Trump by a whopping 39-point margin (54%-15%) among voters who disapprove of how both men have handled the office of president.

Worth noting: An NBC News poll released Sunday indicated that a majority don't want a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.

  • 70% of respondents said they didn't want Biden to run for re-election. 60% said the same about Trump.
  • Biden's age was listed as a major reason for 48% regarding their stance on his potential 2024 campaign. The president is 80 years old and would be 86 at the conclusion of a second term.
  • Trump's indictment for 2016 hush-money payments did not factor into decisions from voters surveyed. Only 18% listed the charges as a major reason the former president shouldn't run, and another 21% said it was a minor reason.

The bottom line: If we're headed for a Biden-Trump rematch, it's going to be a close race — even if Biden starts out with a small edge. Democrats who believe that Trump would be the easiest candidate to beat may be falling prey to the same false narratives of the 2016 campaign.

Methodology: The Journal poll was conducted April 11-17 by Impact Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. The poll is based on a sample of 1,500 registered voters, with a margin of error of ± 2.5 percentage points.

  • The margin of error was ±4 percentage points among a sample of 600 likely Republican primary voters.

The NBC News poll was conducted April 14-18 by Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies. The poll is based on a sample of 1000 adults, with a margin of error of ±3.10 percentage points.

  • Among approximately 800 registered voters surveyed, the margin of error is ±3.46 percentage points.
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