Post-GOP Debate Survey Shows Trump Didn't Suffer for Skipping

Donald Trump maintains a 44-point lead over Ron DeSantis after skipping the first GOP primary debate.
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Kelly Rice
August 25, 2023 at 1:00 pm UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Former President Donald Trump’s support went unchanged after he skipped the matchup: He remains backed by 58% of the party’s potential electorate — maintaining his 44-percentage-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie each saw their support increase by 1 point, within the margin of error of the pre- and post-debate surveys.

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The first Republican presidential debate did nothing to change former President Donald Trump’s formidable lead over his rivals for the party’s 2024 nomination.

Trump Still Has a Big Lead After Skipping the Debate

Share of potential GOP primary voters who said they would vote for the following if the 2024 presidential nominating contest were held in their state today:
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Surveys conducted Aug. 18-20, 2023, and Aug. 24, 2023, among at least 1,256 potential Republican primary voters, with an unweighted margin of error of up to +/-3 percentage points.

According to a survey conducted Aug. 24, 58% of potential Republican primary voters back Trump for the GOP’s 2024 nomination. This is unchanged from our surveys released on Monday before he skipped Wednesday’s matchup. It shows that the Republican front-runner paid no price for skipping the debate even though most potential primary voters did want him to attend.

Third-place candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who faced a barrage of attacks from lower-polling rivals including former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, saw his backing increase among potential Republican primary voters from 10% to 11%, though that movement was well within the latest survey’s 3-point margin of error. 

Support for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was among the most critical of Trump during the debate, also increased by 1 point (from 3% to 4%). 

The stasis in the Republican electorate following the first 2024 debate contrasts with the notable movement in the Democratic contest four years ago, when the initial primary showdown cost the 2020 Democratic front-runner — now-President Joe Biden — support to the benefit of then-Sen. Kamala Harris. This reflects Trump’s enormous grip on his party’s voters, the bulk of whom even say they would support him if he’s imprisoned

This survey reflects one day of data, in contrast with the three-day rolling average that fuels our 2024 GOP primary tracker. Check back with us early next week when we update that page for a fuller picture of the debate’s impact on the GOP electorate.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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