Most GOP Primary Voters Say Trump Should Debate — in Milwaukee and Elsewhere
A majority of potential Republican primary voters, including those who are planning to support Trump, say the former president should participate in Wednesday’s opening Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee.
According to a split-sample test, these voters believed Trump should participate in this week’s debate regardless of whether they knew he plans to skip it or not.
Just 17% of potential GOP primary voters and 7% of Trump supporters say Trump should not participate in any primary debates, his suggested course of action.
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Most Republican primary voters say Trump should be on the stage in Milwaukee
Donald Trump’s plan to skip the Republican Party’s first primary debate of the 2024 cycle isn’t likely to sit well with his supporters or the broader Republican electorate, according to a new Morning Consult survey.
The Aug. 18-21 survey found 68% of potential GOP primary voters, including 79% of Trump supporters, said the former president should participate in the Republican National Committee’s first presidential debate in Milwaukee, which is being produced by Fox News.
Most GOP Primary Voters Say Trump Should Debate — Even When They Are Told He Plans to Skip
Trump’s considerable sway with the Republican electorate has often meant that whatever he says is good enough for the party base. But a Morning Consult split-sample test — which primed half of the survey’s respondents with information that he plans to skip Wednesday’s debate — suggests that dynamic may not hold true here.
Even among those who were told Trump plans to skip the debate, 58% of potential GOP primary voters and 63% of Trump supporters said he should show up. So while the voters who knew of Trump’s plans were more likely to support his decision than those who had no knowledge of them, a solid majority of these voters nonetheless believe he should be on the stage.
Views on Trump’s plan to skip all debates
Similarly, Trump’s Sunday statement on his social media site, Truth Social, that he will “not be doing the debates” is unlikely to be well-received by his supporters or detractors within the GOP electorate.
Few GOP Primary Voters Believe Trump Should Skip All Debates
Just 7% of Republican primary voters who plan to vote for Trump believe he should skip all of the debates of the nominating contest, similar to the 17% of all GOP primary voters who said the same.
Meanwhile, roughly 9 in 10 Trump supporters say the former president should participate in at least some of the debates on the GOP’s nominating calendar.
How much will this hurt Trump?
While Republican voters have proven time and time again that they will follow Trump wherever he leads them, the latest survey’s findings suggest he is somewhat uniquely swimming against the tide of public opinion.
Trump is the party’s leading figure. It looks like most Republican voters expect and want him to be on the debate stage. Ducking these televised sessions could open him up to accusations of weakness and boost his best-positioned challengers — provided they are willing to criticize him in a way that they have mostly avoided thus far in the campaign season.
The latest Morning Consult tracking of the race, which was conducted as news of his plans to skip the Milwaukee debate began to circulate, found his stranglehold over the race (58% majority support) unrelenting from the prior Aug. 15-17 survey. How voters digest Trump’s new position on debates — and how others in the party criticize it — will go a long way to deciding whether it weakens his standing in the race. But it’s clear that he has provided those running behind him with an opening.
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.
Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].