GOP presidential challengers get little encouragement from Republicans

September 16, 2019, 3:00 PM GMT+0

Republicans are happy with Donald Trump as president. A big majority (85%) in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll approve of how he is handling his job (58 percent strongly approve), and 79 percent want him to run for re-election (though the rest of the country isn’t so sure: 51 percent overall don’t want the president to run again).

In the last few weeks of polling, eight in 10 Republicans have regularly said they would be happy if Trump were the only GOP candidate running; 86 percent say now they will vote to re-elect the president next November; and just 5 percent would vote for the Democrat.

But there are other candidates. Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford are challenging the president. They are truly long shots. Many GOP primary voters don’t know who they are, and those that know them don’t necessarily like them.

The president appears to overwhelm his rivals in popularity. He also is a prohibitive favorite when the four men are matched against each other. Ten times as many Republican voters would support Trump than would vote for the other three – combined. Only 7 percent aren’t sure, and 2 percent wouldn’t vote for any of them.

There isn’t a gender gap, but there is an age gap and an ideological one. Voters under the age of 45 are 23 points less likely than older GOP voters to say they will support the president in a primary contest; GOP moderates and the few Republican liberals are 28 points less likely than conservatives to say they would vote for the President.

It’s not yet clear how many of those who support the challengers will have the opportunity. Four state GOP parties have already moved to cancel their nominating events and cast all their convention votes for the president.

See the full toplines and tables results from this week's Economist/YouGov poll.

Related: When Trump took office, Republicans’ most important issue was the economy. Now, it’s immigration.

Image: Getty