Most Americans who like Elon Musk also have a favorable view of Ron DeSantis

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 25, 2023, 3:36 PM GMT+0

New polling from the Economist/YouGov explores how Americans feel about Elon Musk, his handling of Twitter, and the 2024 Republican presidential primary. As Musk navigates his role as the owner of Twitter, public sentiment appears to be warming toward his leadership. This shift coincides with political events, namely Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stepping into the 2024 presidential race via a live announcement on Twitter, which took place shortly after this poll completed fielding. An overlap in favorable views between Musk and DeSantis suggests a commonality in their appeal among Republicans. However, in the Republican primary landscape, DeSantis finds himself in a challenging position: Republicans currently say they prefer former President Donald Trump to DeSantis as their nominee by a margin of two to one.

Views on Musk's handling of Twitter have grown more positive

Musk's takeover of Twitter has been tumultuous, and Americans remain divided on whether his purchase of the platform in October 2022 has been good or bad for the social media company. One-third (37%) say it has been good, 27% say bad, and 19% say neither good nor bad. These responses aren't too different from when YouGov asked the same question in March as well as last December.

Approval of Musk's handling of his job as CEO of Twitter has risen in the past few months — even as he recently named media executive Linda Yaccarino as the company's new CEO. Currently, Americans are 16 percentage points more likely to strongly or somewhat approve (47%) than strongly or somewhat disapprove (31%) of how Musk is handling Twitter; his performance among people who use Twitter is currently even higher, +31. In November, Americans overall approved by a margin of just 1 point (37% to 36%).

Musk's favorability rating is relatively high: 53% view him very or somewhat favorably, while 37% view him very or somewhat unfavorably. The share of Americans with an unfavorable view of Musk increased slightly in the months after he formally offered to buy Twitter in April 2022, but has not shifted much in the period since. However, since the end of 2022, more Americans have come to form an opinion of Musk, which has led to a rise in the share who view him favorably: 53% now say this they do, compared to 40% last December.

Republicans (74%) are far more likely than Democrats (40%) to have a favorable view of Musk; his increased popularity appears to be driven more by positive impressions of him increasing among Democrats than among Republicans.

DeSantis' campaign and the 2024 Republican presidential primary

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida announced the start of his 2024 presidential campaign yesterday in a live audio conversation on Twitter with Elon Musk. There is a great deal of crossover between people who have positive views of each man: 85% of Americans with a favorable view of DeSantis — and 88% of Republicans with one — also have an overall favorable view of Musk. However, DeSantis is not unique in this regard; people who view Trump favorably also tend to have a favorable view of Musk.

When asked which of the two candidates they would prefer as their party's nominee for president in 2024, 60% of Republicans choose Trump and 28% choose DeSantis. Preferences vary across subgroups, however, with people who identify as born-again Christians being especially likely to choose Trump (71%) over DeSantis (22%). Education also splits Republicans: 63% of Republicans without a college degree prefer Trump, compared to 53% of Republican college graduates.

Which candidate is viewed as more electable? When asked which of the two candidates has the best chance to win the general election in 2024, Republicans are more likely to say Trump (58%) than DeSantis (27%). Democrats are split on this question: 31% think Trump has a better chance than DeSantis (29%) of winning the general election.

The poll also asked Americans to compare the GOP candidates on a variety of characteristics. When asked about their ideology, roughly equal shares of Republicans rated Trump and DeSantis as "conservative" or "very conservative." More Republicans are unsure of DeSantis's ideology than they are of Trump's.

Republicans do, however, see differences in the leadership abilities of each man. Far more see Trump as a very strong leader (64%) than characterize DeSantis this way (47%).

— Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on May 20 - 23, 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 (Scott Olson)