West Long Branch, NJ – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump continue to be the only 2024 possibilities generating significant top-of-mind support from Republican voters in the latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. While Trump has gained some ground over the past two months, he trails DeSantis in a head-to-head contest. At the same time, either candidate is preferred to other popular Republican officeholders, suggesting that the race is a two-person contest in most GOP voters’ minds right now. The poll also looks at opinion of key figures in the U.S. Congress.
When asked who they would like to see as the Republican nominee for president in 2024, GOP voters come up with two names as top-of-mind preferences – DeSantis (33%) and Trump (33%). Any other potential contender is mentioned by just a handful of poll participants – including former Vice President Mike Pence (2%), former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (1%), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (1%), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (1%), and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (1%).
“Trump and DeSantis are grabbing most of the media attention, so it is not surprising that most Republican voters do not come up with any names other than these two,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
In December, DeSantis (39%) held an advantage over Trump (26%) as the top-of-mind choice for the nomination, but the number of Republican voters who name the Florida governor has since declined by 6 points while the former president’s mentions have increased by 7 points. When the two candidates are placed in a hypothetical head-to-head match, though, DeSantis comes out on top by a 53% to 40% margin, including a slight 49% to 46% edge among those who call themselves “strong Republicans.” DeSantis is preferred over Trump among nearly every major voting bloc in the party, with the notable exceptions of those earning less than $50,000 a year (38% DeSantis to 53% for Trump) and those age 65 and older (43% to 49%).
“Both Trump and DeSantis are well-liked by the party’s rank and file, but it’s likely that voter opinion of Trump is more firmly set than it is for DeSantis right now. The unknown factor is whether DeSantis can maintain this early edge if and when he gets on the campaign trail,” said Murray.
Republican voters hold overwhelmingly positive views of both DeSantis (80% favorable and 6% unfavorable) and Trump (74% favorable and 18% unfavorable). Moreover, DeSantis (82%) and Trump (80%) have similar favorable ratings among evangelical voters in the party. The Florida governor, however, does better among non-evangelicals – 77% favorable compared with 66% for Trump. In a two-person contest, DeSantis has a slight lead over Trump among evangelicals (51% to 44%), but a large lead among non-evangelicals (56% to 34%). Just 27% of Republican voters overall, and 26% of evangelicals, think Trump should run as an independent if he does not win the GOP nomination.
“Trump is still admired by the evangelical voters who were crucial to his nomination in 2016. And many of the early primary states have larger evangelical voting blocs than the national electorate. However, Trump’s evangelical support in a hypothetical primary with DeSantis is currently not strong enough to overcome his relatively weaker standing among non-evangelical Republicans,” said Murray.
The poll also paired these two potential candidates against Cruz, who was the runner-up in the 2016 GOP contest. Even though the Texas senator is well-regarded among Republican voters (73% favorable and 13% unfavorable), he comes out on the losing side in a head-to-head match against either DeSantis (67% to 19% for Cruz) or Trump (60% to 31% for Cruz). The latter results are similar to a hypothetical question Monmouth asked Republican voters prior to the 2020 election cycle, when Trump was the incumbent (66% Trump to 21% Cruz in January 2019).
“If DeSantis chooses to run against Trump it will be very difficult for any other candidate to get Republican voters to take a close look at them,” said Murray.
Haley, who is set to announce her presidential bid next week – and is named as a top-of-mind preference by just 1% of Republican voters – earns positive reviews from her party’s electorate, 47% favorable and 11% unfavorable. However, one-fifth of these voters do not have an opinion of her (22%) and another fifth have not even heard of her (19%).
“Haley’s favorable ratings are solid among Republican voters who are familiar with her. The problem is she is an unknown commodity for a large chunk of the potential primary electorate,” said Murray.
Other possible 2024 GOP candidates are in the same situation as Haley, including Pompeo at 41% favorable and 16% unfavorable, with just under half having no opinion, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at 36% favorable and 8% unfavorable, with just over half offering no opinion. Pence is a better known figure but he also has higher negatives than other possible candidates included in the poll – 55% favorable and 28% unfavorable with less than one-fifth having no opinion of him.
Ratings for McCarthy, McConnell, Greene, Santos
The Monmouth University Poll also asked Republican voters for their opinions of some high profile members of Congress. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gets a fairly solid 48% favorable and 15% unfavorable rating, with about a third who do not give him a rating. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a clearly negative rating of 23% favorable and 53% unfavorable among his party’s voters, with one-fourth offering no opinion.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, the MAGA-affiliated Georgia congresswoman, has a 30% favorable and 19% unfavorable rating, while one-third offer no opinion and one-fifth say they have not heard of her. New York Rep. George Santos receives a net negative rating of just 12% favorable and 42% unfavorable from his fellow Republicans, with one-third offering no opinion but only 14% saying they have not heard of the newly elected congressman at all.
“Santos is more widely recognized than some people who are in the discussion for president. Republicans may not like him all that much, but he is a household name,” said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 26 to February 2, 2023 with 566 Republican and Republican leaning voters in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 6.1 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
QUESTIONS AND RESULTS
(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)
[Q1-20 previously released.]
[Q21-33 held for future release.]
34.Looking ahead, who would you like to see as the Republican nominee for President in 2024? [LIST WAS NOT READ]
|(VOL) Don’t know||24%||25%|
[QUESTIONS 35–37 WERE ROTATED]
35.If the only two candidates for the Republican nomination were Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, who would you choose? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
|(VOL) Don’t know||5%|
36.If the only two candidates for the Republican nomination were Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who would you choose? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
|(VOL) Don’t know||5%||9%||7%|
* Asked about the 2020 nomination.
** Asked about the 2016 nomination.
37.If the only two candidates for the Republican nomination were Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz, who would you choose?
|(VOL) Don’t know||9%|
38.I’m going to read you the names of some leaders in the Republican Party. Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion. If you have not heard of the person, just let me know. First, [READ NAME]. [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
|Former President Donald Trump||74%||18%||8%||0%||(566)|
|Florida Governor Ron DeSantis||80%||6%||11%||3%||(566)|
|Former Vice President Mike Pence||55%||28%||17%||0%||(566)|
|Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo||41%||16%||36%||8%||(566)|
|Texas Senator Ted Cruz||73%||13%||12%||1%||(566)|
|Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin||36%||8%||30%||26%||(566)|
|Former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley||47%||11%||22%||19%||(566)|
|Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell||23%||53%||22%||3%||(566)|
|House Speaker Kevin McCarthy||48%||15%||30%||7%||(566)|
|New York Congressman George Santos||12%||42%||32%||14%||(566)|
|Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene||30%||19%||32%||20%||(566)|
39.If Donald Trump does not win the Republican nomination for president, do you think he should run as an independent, or not?
|(VOL) Don’t know||5%||4%||2%|
The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 26 to February 2, 2023 with a probability-based national random sample of 566 registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. This includes 192 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 374 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n= 219), Aristotle (list, n= 318) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n= 29). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on voter list and US Census information (ACS 2021 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 6.1 percentage points (adjusted for sample design effects). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
|49% Strong Republican|
|22% Republican, not strong|
|30% Independent, lean Rep.|
|40% High school or less|
|32% Some college|
|28% 4 year degree|
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.