Poll: Surging DeSantis closes gap with Trump to single digits
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now trails Donald Trump by just 9 percentage points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — the only single-digit gap between the two potential rivals in any major national survey to date.
In a striking sign of vulnerability for the former president — and a possible warning that his vice-like grip on the GOP base is slipping — less than half of registered voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents say they would choose Trump (45%) over DeSantis. Another 36% say they would pick DeSantis, while 18% say they’re not sure yet.
President Biden, meanwhile, continues to struggle among registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents — less than a third of whom (32%) say they would back him over his own vice president, Kamala Harris (24%), in a theoretical one-on-one contest.
A full 40% — a clear plurality — say they’re not sure who they would vote for. And while it’s extraordinarily unlikely that Harris would challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination, the president’s anemic numbers in such a scenario underscore his waning popularity — even among his own party’s base.
Until recently, the conventional wisdom has been that the 2024 presidential election was shaping up as a rematch between Biden and Trump. That may still be the likeliest scenario. But as Biden’s popularity continues to sink amid soaring inflation — and as the Jan. 6 select committee sharpens the possibility of criminal charges against Trump — members of both parties have started to whisper about alternatives.
Republicans seeking a Trump alternative have largely focused on DeSantis, who has pointedly not asked for Trump’s endorsement in his Florida reelection race. DeSantis is favored to win in November ahead of a likely 2024 presidential bid.
The left, on the other hand, has been less single-minded in its speculation — in part because Biden, both publicly and privately, has repeatedly insisted that he will run for a second term. But given the president’s advanced age (he’ll turn 82 shortly after the next presidential election) and low approval ratings, several national outlets have published recent stories about Democrats’ emerging interest in some sort of plan B.
“To say our country was on the right track would flagrantly depart from reality,” Steve Simeonidis, a Democratic National Committee member from Miami, told the New York Times — adding that Biden “should announce his intent not to seek re-election in ’24 right after the midterms.”
The survey of 1,630 U.S. adults, which was conducted from June 24-27, underscores Simeonidis’s view that no one is pleased with the status quo. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s momentous decision last Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, just 15% of Americans now say the country is “generally headed in the right direction” — a 6-point drop from the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey and the lowest reading in the last two-and-a-half years. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) think the country is “off on the wrong track.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, few Americans say that Biden (22%) or Trump (30%) should run in 2024.
Again, Biden is in worse shape with his own party than Trump. After the court’s Roe decision, “right direction” responses cratered among Democrats, falling from 40% to 27% over the last two weeks as “wrong track” responses rose from 46% to 63%. That nearly two-thirds of Democrats now think the U.S. is “off on the wrong track” even when their own party controls Congress and the White House is worrisome for the president.
In turn, just one-third of Democrats and Democratic leaners (33%) want Biden to run again; a larger share (42%) do not. Of the latter group, a full three quarters select “he’s too old” as the reason why Biden shouldn’t run in 2024.
Yet there is no consensus among Democrats when it comes to who should succeed Biden. One potential Democratic presidential candidate, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, has been lavished with press attention in recent weeks despite insisting he has no White House ambitions. (In an interview with Yahoo News earlier this year, Newsom said Harris, his “old friend” and fellow Californian, “is the next in line” should Biden step aside.)
But as with Harris, a plurality of Democrats (40%) say they’re not sure who they prefer in a hypothetical face-off between Biden (37%) and Newsom (17%).
Republicans and Republican-leaners are not yet expressing the same level of uncertainty about Trump that Democrats are about Biden; a majority of GOP voters (54%) still say he should run for reelection. But his numbers against DeSantis suggest his support may be softening.
Even at this early stage, DeSantis is ahead of Trump (within the margin of error) among several key demographic groups, including Republican-leaning independents (by 2 points), seniors (by 4 points), those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year (by 5 points) and those making more than $100,000 a year (by 3 points). It’s a remarkable showing for a state-level politician who just four years ago was an obscure congressman in an uphill battle to become Florida’s governor.
In contrast, former Vice President Mike Pence, another possible 2024 challenger, trails Trump by a staggering 47 percentage points — 18% to 65% — among registered voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. In other words, the single-digit gap between Trump and DeSantis is as much a sign of the governor’s strength as the former president’s weakness.
Despite the president’s rock-bottom numbers — just 38% of Americans approve of the job he’s doing— both DeSantis and Trump currently trail Biden by 3 points among registered voters in a general election matchup. They come marginally closer against Harris or Newsom, but not enough to escape a statistical tie.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,630 U.S. adults interviewed online from June 24-27, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.9%.