Republican voters think DeSantis would be more likely to beat Biden, but prefer Trump

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
January 19, 2023, 3:29 PM GMT+0

Republican voters think that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has a slight edge over former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical election match-up against President Joe Biden, according to new polling by the Economist/YouGov. In a Trump vs. Biden match-up, registered voters give Biden a 4 percentage-point lead: 42% of registered voters say they'd choose Trump and 46% say Biden. When DeSantis is pitted against Biden, the two are tied: 43% say they'd vote for DeSantis and 43% say they'd vote for Biden. Republicans are equally likely to choose Trump or DeSantis over Biden in both match-ups.

The gap in expectations of who would win each of these hypothetical head-to-heads is even larger. By 43% to 37%, registered voters think DeSantis would beat Biden, but by 48% to 37%, they think Biden would beat Trump. Among Republicans, DeSantis is given an expected margin of victory over Biden of 76% to 12%. For Trump, it's slightly lower, with 68% of Republicans expecting Trump would beat Biden and 17% saying the Democrat would win.

Trump fares better when competing against a field of other Republican names. When asked to pick from a list of six potential Republican presidential primary candidates, more Republican and Republican-leaning Independent voters say they'd prefer Trump (44%) over DeSantis (32%) as their nominee. Just 5% and 4%, respectively, prefer Mike Pence or Nikki Haley. Even fewer — 3% — prefer Ted Cruz.

Who are Democrats interested in seeing as potential nominees? Four in 10 (40%) registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents say they'd want Biden to be their party's presidential nominee when asked to choose from a list of six potential candidates. Opposition to Biden within his own party is less united than opposition to Trump within his. The next most likely to be selected candidates asked about are Bernie Sanders (12%), Pete Buttigieg (10%), and Kamala Harris (9%).

Among all Republicans, DeSantis has a slightly higher net favorability rating — the share who view each person very or somewhat favorably minus the share who view them unfavorably — than Trump does (+67 vs. +62). Among Americans overall, DeSantis receives the highest net score (+13), followed by Sanders (+10).

One question we've tracked over the past six months asks whether Trump should run for president in 2024. Looking just at registered voters, we find that 34% want Trump as a candidate in the next election, including 59% of Republicans and 16% of Democrats. While the share of Republicans who wanted him to run slumped following the November midterms, it has since rebounded.

A similar share of registered voters — 31% — want Biden to run in 2024; this share has remained unchanged since we last asked in December. Prior to that, the share who wanted Biden to run had fallen, but has since risen back to earlier levels. Half of registered Democrats (50%) want Biden to run again — fewer than the share of Republicans who want Trump to (59%). More registered Republicans want Biden to run (21%) than Democrats want Trump to run (16%)

— Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on January 14 - 17, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty