A pair of new polls show former President Donald Trump continues to lead the pack of 2024 contenders, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is closing the gap despite not officially announcing his candidacy for the presidency.
“It’s not surprising that another new poll shows Trump in the lead,” Rutgers University presidential and cultural historian David Greenberg told the Herald Sunday. “He’s the front-runner and a lot of Republican voters remain intensely loyal to him.
“It’s also not surprising that DeSantis is emerging as the leading alternative,” Greenberg added. “He’s been a popular governor and has built a national following.”
According to the most recent poll of registered voters published by Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies, Trump, who announced on Nov. 15 he would seek the White House for a third time, leads DeSantis by 18 points, 46% to 28%.
This represents a 20-point shift in support among Republican-leaning voters during the month that has passed since the last Harvard-Harris poll, with Florida’s recently re-elected governor gaining 11 points and Trump losing 9. The poll was conducted in the days following Trump’s announcement of his candidacy.
Either Republican, according to the poll, could potentially beat President Biden, who’s polling at 42% to Trump’s 44% and is tied with DeSantis at 43%. That’s not surprising, according to Greenberg, who said Trump could theoretically win this time around.
“America remains a 50/50 nation,” Greenberg said. “Since the 2000 election, all of our presidential contests except 2008 (held amid the economic collapse) have been very close. So all it will take for Trump to win would be for a few of the swing states that Biden won to swing back. It could happen.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, the only other potential Democratic candidate polling in the double digits, would also lose against both Trump and DeSantis, according to the Harvard poll and only 37% of those polled thought Biden should run again in 2024.
An Emerson College poll, also released last week, showed Trump with a 30-point lead over DeSantis, 55% to 25%. Trump’s support, however, depends on the demographics of the voter, according to pollsters.
“There is a stark education divide among Republican primary voters,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, said with the poll’s release.
“A 71% majority of voters with a high school degree or less support Trump in 2024 whereas 14% support DeSantis,” Kimball said. “A 53% majority of those with a college degree, some college, or associate’s degree support Trump while 28% support DeSantis. By contrast, Republican voters with a postgraduate degree are most split: 32% support Trump, 29% support DeSantis, and 18% support Mike Pence for the Republican nomination.”
It’s not just education that marks a divide among Republican voters. Trump still holds sway among younger conservatives, but his support slips when it comes to older audiences.
“Younger voters under 50 break for Trump over DeSantis 67% to 14%, voters between 50 and 64 break for Trump 54% to 32%, while Republicans over 65 are more split: 39% support Trump and 32% DeSantis,” Kimball said.
If you feel like it’s way too early to try and guess what the 2024 election will look like, you aren’t alone. According to Greenfield, author of Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency, only time will tell.
He said, “Making predictions is a mug’s game. We just have to wait until 2024.”