Poll shows DeSantis gaining on Trump; other candidates gaining on DeSantis

by | Aug 28, 2023



  • A new Emerson College poll reveals some significant shifts in Republican Primary support, with several candidates gaining ground on Donald Trump.
  • DeSantis narrowed the gap mostly due to Trump losing ground, but DeSantis’s rivals also picked up many of Trump’s defectors.
  • Ramaswamy, Pence and Haley all gained ground against Trump and DeSantis, but still trail.

A new Emerson College poll highlights a changing tide in the Republican Primary landscape, with former President Donald Trump losing six percentage points in support among registered Republican voters, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gains ground, up two points from last week.

Trump remains the frontrunner at 50%, but the decrease in his support has political pundits questioning the solidity of his base. DeSantis trails at a meager 12%, but that represents a modest but significant post debate increase of two points, or a net gain of 8 points on Trump since the debate.

DeSantis is trailed by businessman Vivek Ramaswamy at 9% and former Vice President Mike Pence at 7%. Both men gained ground against both Trump and DeSantis.

According to the memo, Pence and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are beginning to carve out specific demographics within the traditionally monolithic Trump base. Pence saw his Midwest support grow from 4% to 13% post-debate, while Trump’s support in the same region declined from 54% to 42%. Haley, who jumped 5 points to 7%, saw her support among voters over 50 increase from 2% to 9%.

“Support appears to be softening for Trump,” said Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling. “Last week 82% of Trump voters said they would definitely support him. That number has dropped to 71%.”

Overall, only 57% of Republican primary voters are fully committed to their current candidate, down from 62% last week. But among DeSantis supporters, that commitment decreased even more, from 32% to 25%.

While Ramaswamy was perceived as the debate winner by 27% of Republican primary voters, DeSantis came in second with 21% believing he won. Despite this, 31% of voters who are familiar with the debate felt that no candidate truly won, underscoring the fragmented nature of the race.

It’s worth noting that DeSantis is expected to dominate the national news spotlight this week due to what is currently projected to be a major hurricane making landfall in the Tampa area, a major population center and one that could reshape the national conversation over the next several news cycles.

The Emerson poll also measured the contest without Trump, which showed a two man race between DeSantis and Ramaswamy.

“If Trump were not in the race,” noted Kimball, “we would likely see a contest shaping up between DeSantis at 32% and Ramaswamy at 29%, with Pence trailing at 16%.”

As the 2024 presidential election season progresses, the Republican primary race is expected to become even more volatile, particularly as national news stories play out with Trump’s indictments and criminal trials. While Trump’s position is still strong, the rising support for other candidates may point to a more contested fight for the GOP nomination.

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