We polled former DeSantis voters on who they're backing now. Most say Trump

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
February 12, 2024, 5:25 PM GMT+0

A new survey shows how Donald Trump has expanded his lead over Nikki Haley since all his other challengers quit the Republican primary: Trump held on to most of his supporters and won over far more of the newly unaffiliated voters than Haley did.

Despite the January withdrawals of Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie, Haley has barely budged in the polls. Some of her own supporters are no longer backing her, and Trump picked up twice as many former supporters of DeSantis and Ramaswamy as she did.

The Stanford-Arizona State-Yale Election Panel (SAY24), conducted by YouGov, traces the movement of voters between candidates over time. Last week, SAY24 asked likely Republican primary voters — registered voters who say they intend to vote in the primary — about their preferred nominee. Among the likely primary voters interviewed were nearly 2,000 who previously had told the panel about their preference in December and early January — before DeSantis, Christie, Ramaswamy, and Asa Hutchinson dropped out of the race.

This data provides a unique look at how individual Republican voters have been changing their minds — or not — in the 2024 election.

Backers of withdrawn candidates are now mostly supporting Trump

For most Republican primary voters, there's been no mind-changing. 73% last week were still supporting the same candidate they had earlier, according to initial polling conducted between December 11, 2023 and January 16, 2024 (what we'll call the baseline survey).

That's good for Trump, who had 63% support in the baseline survey. 90% of his supporters then still supported him again the week of January 24 - 30, 2024, according to the SAY24 survey that re-interviewed the more than 2,000 likely primary voters during those dates.

In contrast, Trump's sole remaining major rival, Haley, held on to only 70% of her earlier support. 10% of her earlier backers now back Trump, and another 21% say they're undecided or no longer plan on voting in the Republican primaries.

Not only did Trump hold on to nearly all of his own supporters, but he also picked up twice as many supporters of withdrawn candidates as Haley. 51% of voters who previously supported a candidate other than Trump or Haley now say they support Trump. 23% back Haley, and 26% are undecided or no longer plan to vote.

Trump also has gained the support of 42% of formerly undecided voters, while Haley has 13%.

Haley picked up a majority of Christie's supporters — and no one else's

With a majority of Republicans backing Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination, his rivals needed to both consolidate voters who backed other non-Trump candidates, and also persuade some Trump voters, in order to win the nomination. So far, neither of those things has happened.

Of all the dropped-out candidates' former supporters, only Christie's are now primarily supporting Haley. She picked up 64% of former Christie supporters, while 3% now back Trump; the rest aren't sure or are no longer planning to vote. But Christie only had support from 2% of likely Republican primary voters in the baseline survey, so this hasn't meant a big bump for Haley.

In contrast, former supporters of DeSantis and Ramaswamy — who combined for 15% of the vote, according to the baseline survey — are mostly now supporting Trump. 60% of former DeSantis voters now back Trump, while 17% support Haley. Similarly, 57% of former Ramaswamy backers are now Trump supporters, compared to 16% who have switched to Haley.

Understanding the voters who are switching to Trump and Haley

Trump has picked up twice as many of his withdrawn rivals' supporters as Haley, whether they are men or women, are 45 or over or younger than that, or have or do not have college degrees.

Haley has picked up some support from a group known as weak Republicans: voters who identify as Republicans but lack a strong attachment to the GOP. Weak Republicans compose around 20% of likely Republican primary voters. Of these voters who used to back withdrawn candidates, 42% now back Trump and 40% back Haley. In contrast, Trump picked up majorities of his rival's supporters who are either strong Republicans, or who are Independents who lean strongly to the Republican Party. (This latter group, around 15% of likely Republican primary voters, are often just as committed as strong supporters of the party, even though they identify as Independents.)

YouGov's SAY24 survey will continue to poll American voters throughout the 2024 election campaign, including re-interviewing past panelists.

Methodology: YouGov interviewed 103,738 adults in the U.S. between December 11, 2023 and January 16, 2024. The baseline sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, and geographic region based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. Respondents were selected to be representative of adults nationwide. The weights range from 0.1 to 15.2, with a mean of 1 and a standard deviation of 1.4. A sample of 7,498 respondents from the baseline interviews were recontacted to participate in a follow-up survey conducted between January 24-30, 2024. 6,251 of the 7,498 people recontacted completed the follow-up survey, which is a recontact rate of 83.4%. A recontact weight for Republican primary voters was calculated to match the demographics, 2020 presidential vote, and Republican primary vote choice in the original survey. The Republican primary voter recontact weights range from 0.1 to 4.5, with a mean of 1 and a standard deviation of 0.5. The margin of error (a 95% confidence interval) for a sample ‘p’ percentage based upon the entire sample is approximately ±0.5% and ±2.3% for the sample of 2,153 recontacted Republican primary voters.

Image: Getty (Joe Raedle)