Poll: DeSantis surges to 5-point lead over weakened Trump in 2024 primary matchup

Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are seen together in a photo illustration.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now leads former President Donald Trump by 5 percentage points in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Trump previously led DeSantis by double-digit margins among registered voters who describe themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents.

Meanwhile, DeSantis is ahead by even more — a whopping 11 points — among Americans who say they voted in a 2016 Republican primary or caucus in their state.

The poll of 1,635 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Dec. 1 to 5, is one of the first to confirm how far and fast Trump’s political stock has fallen in the weeks since he announced his own comeback White House bid just days after his party’s historically poor performance in the 2022 midterm elections. During that period, many conservatives blamed Trump for blowing key pickup opportunities — including this week’s Senate runoff in Georgia — and criticized the former president for hosting avowed antisemites at Mar-a-Lago and calling for the “termination” of the Constitution.

“Anyone seeking the presidency who thinks that the Constitution could somehow be suspended or not followed, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in as president of the United States,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters from a podium.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that more and more rank-and-file Republicans are starting to agree.

When asked in mid-October who they “would rather see” as the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, 45% of registered voters who are Republicans or Republican leaners said Trump. Thirty-six percent said DeSantis.

Asked now which of the two candidates they would “vote for” if their state’s primary or caucus were held today, the same group says DeSantis by a 47% to 42% margin — a net swing of 14 percentage points in DeSantis’s direction over the span of six eventful weeks.

Likewise, more Republican voters now say they want to see “someone else” (43%) as the GOP nominee instead of Trump (41%) — an 8-point decline for Trump (from 49%) and a 6-point increase for someone else (from 37%) since mid-October.

Yahoo News and YouGov did not create a formal “likely voter” model for this poll. Instead, respondents were asked if they voted in their state’s 2016 Republican primary or caucus — one of several possible predictors of future voting behavior.

Among the 24% of U.S. adults who say they cast a GOP primary or caucus vote in 2016, DeSantis already claims majority support (51%) in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, while Trump lags far behind (40%).

Trump does better against DeSantis among other key Republican subgroups, including the 29% of adults who say they are likely to vote in a 2024 Republican primary or caucus: 47% of them say they would vote for DeSantis versus 45% for Trump.

And the former president leads the Florida governor 53% to 39% among those who identify as “strong” Republicans (17% of adults), signaling that Trump’s MAGA base remains loyal to him.

At the same time, however, DeSantis leads Trump 44% to 32% among those who identify as “not very strong Republicans” or independents who lean Republican (19% of adults) — a sign that the composition of the primary electorate may be crucial if the two candidates do wind up duking it out in 2024.

Regardless, the fact that DeSantis has already started to surpass his party’s dominant figure — without even announcing a presidential bid of his own — is an important development.

A person walks a bike on a sidewalk past campaign signs supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
A person walks a bike past campaign signs for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the midterm elections in Tampa on Nov. 8. (Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)

Even in a more crowded field, the Floridian still performs surprisingly well. When offered a choice of nine potential candidates, just 35% of Republican voters currently pick Trump — 10 points less than the 45% of GOP primary voters who cast their ballots for him in 2016’s fractured GOP nominating contest. Nearly as many (33%) choose DeSantis.

Meanwhile, those numbers are just as close among adults who say they are likely to vote in a 2024 Republican primary or caucus: 38% for Trump to 36% for DeSantis. Among those who say they actually voted in a 2016 Republican primary or caucus in their state, DeSantis is ahead 36% to 34%.

Unlike in 2016 — when a succession of Republican candidates split the anti-Trump primary vote, dividing the opposition and enabling Trump to secure the GOP nomination without majority support — there is so far little indication that any other potential Trump challenger can compete with DeSantis.

Among all Republican and Republican-leaning voters, former Vice President Mike Pence (5%), former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley (5%), Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (2%), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (2%), former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2%), outgoing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (1%) and outgoing Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney (2%) barely register.

All of which underscores how good the last month has been for DeSantis, who won reelection on Nov. 8 by 19 percentage points, and how bad it has been for Trump. In mid-June — the last time Yahoo News and YouGov asked the question — Trump’s favorable rating was underwater by 10 points (43% favorable, 53% unfavorable). Today, it is underwater by 15 (40% favorable, 55% unfavorable). That 5-point shift is almost twice the poll’s 2.6% margin of error. And the biggest decline came among those who say they have a “very favorable” opinion of Trump — a group that shrunk a full 7 percentage points (from 25% to 18%).

Perhaps most worrisome for the former president as he embarks on yet another run for the GOP presidential nomination is that even most Republicans no longer have a “very favorable” opinion of him. In June, a majority (54%) of them did. Now that number is 12 points lower (42%).

Relatedly, most Republicans said in late October that Trump would be a stronger (57%) rather than weaker (19%) presidential candidate in 2024 than he was in 2020. Today, that 38-point gap has collapsed to 13 points, with less than half of Republicans now saying Trump would be stronger (45%) and nearly a third (32%) saying he would be weaker.

Asked who has a “better chance” of winning the 2024 presidential election, 48% of Republican voters say DeSantis, compared to just 39% for Trump. This finding suggests that at least some of DeSantis’s growing GOP support may stem from the perception that Trump is likely to lose again in two years’ time.

Trump stands onstage in front of two American flags.
Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The poll itself provides some tentative proof of Trump’s weakness in a general election rematch — especially relative to DeSantis. If the 2024 election were held today, registered voters would prefer President Biden to Trump by a 45% to 42% margin. DeSantis, however, is tied with Biden at 44% apiece.

And while 34% of voters say they would “definitely” support either Trump or DeSantis in 2024, an additional 18% say they “might” support DeSantis — versus just 13% who say they might support the more familiar Trump. That means, at the moment, a majority of voters (52%) are at least open to supporting DeSantis in 2024. Just 47% are open to supporting Trump.

As for the Democratic side of the equation, little has changed in recent weeks. Biden’s job approval number (42%) is the same as it was in early November, just before the midterms. Only 2 in 5 Democrats (40%) think Biden should run again, the same as in mid-October. And more registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic leaners continue to narrowly prefer “someone else” (41%) over Biden (37%) as the 2024 nominee. (In mid-October, 40% preferred someone else, 36% preferred Biden.) Nearly identical numbers think someone else (39%) has a better chance than Biden (35%) of winning the 2024 election.

President Biden greets attendees during a ceremony at a semiconductor facility under construction.
President Biden greets attendees during a ceremony at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. facility under construction in Phoenix on Tuesday. (Caitlin O’Hara/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The problem for these Democrats is that there is no “someone else” on the horizon. Just 35% of Democratic voters, for example, say they would prefer Vice President Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee if Biden does not run for reelection in 2024. Nearly half (48%) say they would prefer a different “someone else.”

Harris’s support is even lower when she is pitted against six other potential Democratic candidates (again in the hypothetical scenario that Biden chooses not to run). Here, just 19% of Democratic voters select Harris — followed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at 14%, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 13%, California Gov. Gavin Newsom at 10%, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 7%, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at 7% and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 6%.

With Biden out of the picture, nearly 1 in 4 Democratic voters (24%) says they are “not sure” who else they would vote for.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,635 U.S. adults interviewed online from Dec. 1 to 5, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6%.