GOP Primary Electorate Sees Trump as More Electable After Georgia Arrest, First Republican Debate
Just 13% of potential GOP primary voters said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is most electable against President Joe Biden — matching a tracking low — while the share who said the same of entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy fell from 10% to 6% following his high-profile appearance in the debate.
More than 7 in 10 potential primary voters who tuned into the Aug. 23 GOP debate broadcast said Ramaswamy performed “very” or “somewhat” well — higher than the 65% who said the same of DeSantis or the 64% who said the same of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
GOP primary voters who watched the debate were most likely to say the candidates talked too much about Donald Trump, while majorities said there was not enough discussion about the economy, immigration, crime and seniors’ programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
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How the GOP debate impacted views about the candidates
Last week, Donald Trump skipped the Republican Party’s first primary debate and scored headlines instead as he surrendered to Georgia authorities, producing a historic presidential mug shot that was nearly impossible to miss. Now, his party’s expected electorate is viewing him as even more electable against President Joe Biden than it did before.
More Potential GOP Primary Voters See Trump as Electable After His Mug Shot and the First Debate
According to our Aug. 24-27 survey, 62% of potential primary voters said they think Trump has the best chance of beating the Democratic incumbent. That is up 9 percentage points over the previous week, and matches a high in Morning Consult’s tracking of the question since April.
Their belief tracks with the Republican front-runner’s continued standing against Biden in a head-to-head test among the overall electorate. Despite his escalating legal troubles, which he’s embraced with his campaign’s monetization of his mug shot, our daily tracking shows that Trump continues to poll neck-and-neck against Biden while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trails the incumbent.
On that note, just 13% of voters who indicated they plan to vote in a Republican primary or caucus in their state said DeSantis is most electable against Biden — matching a tracking low — while the share who said the same of entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy fell from 10% to 6% following his high-profile appearance in the debate.
This is daily data: We survey thousands of U.S. voters every day, producing exclusive daily tracking among thousands of Republican primary voters ahead of Election Day.
Understand true impact in real time: Other, more traditional polls with smaller sample sizes may look noisy or show jumps in support. Our dedication to high-frequency survey research means larger sample sizes of voters and demographics, with more consistency and more stability. Daily data matters.
Ramaswamy, who remains the No. 3 contender for the Republican presidential nomination with 10% support, saw a boost in awareness among the GOP’s electorate following the first televised matchup, during which lower-polling rivals each lobbed fiery attacks on his credentials.
While Ramaswamy continues to be the third-most popular candidate among potential GOP primary voters, the share with negative views increased following his debate appearance as more voters became aware of him.
Ramaswamy Sees His Popularity Decline After the First GOP Debate
Roughly 1 in 5 potential Republican primary voters have unfavorable views of Ramaswamy, up from 12% before the first debate. This trend isn’t exclusive to Ramaswamy: Both former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — two candidates with low name recognition — saw their unfavorability increase post-debate.
By contrast, more established candidates like DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence didn’t see a shift in their favorability ratings after appearing in the debate.
How the GOP’s electorate felt about the debate
While Ramaswamy’s popularity took a hit among the GOP’s wider expected electorate, he was the clear winner among the debate-watching Republican primary audience on Aug. 23.
According to a separate survey we conducted Aug. 24-27, 72% of potential Republican primary voters who tuned into the Fox News broadcast said Ramaswamy performed “very” or “somewhat” well — higher than the 65% who said the same of DeSantis or the 64% who said the same of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The latter’s support for the GOP nomination has increased from 3% to 5% since the debate.
GOP Primary Voters Are Most Likely to Say Ramaswamy Performed Well in the Debate
Potential primary voters who support Trump were in line with the GOP’s larger debate-watching audience when it came to Ramaswamy’s and DeSantis’ performances. But Trump’s backers were notably less likely to say Haley or former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the stage’s top Trump critic, performed well in the debate.
When it comes to what was discussed, potential Republican primary voters who watched the debate were most likely to say the candidates talked too much about Trump (33%), followed by 31% who said the same of LGBTQ rights, which came up in references to transgender Americans.
More than half of potential Republican primary voters who watched the debate said there was not enough discussion about the economy (57%), immigration (56%), crime (54%) and seniors’ programs such as Medicare and Social Security (54%).
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].