Former President Donald Trump only seems to be getting politically stronger since his arrest in Manhattan earlier this month — at least in the Republican Party presidential nomination chase.
The opening poll of the 2024 campaign season by the University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs (SPIA) shows Trump with a huge double-digit lead over his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (50.7 percent to 29.8 percent). The poll’s next- closest competitor is “Undecided” at 7.4 percent.
“If anyone can contest a nomination it might be DeSantis, and maybe no one else. No one else was gaining any traction, period,” pollster M.V. “Trey” Hood III, political science professor at the University of Georgia, told The Georgia Star News.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, at 4 percent, trails Trump by nearly 47 points. She’s followed by former Vice President Mike Pence and Trump hater and former Wyoming U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, with the support of 2.3 percent of respondents. U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina was at 1.3 percent. Presumptive Republican candidates, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson are barely breathing in the poll, each with a fraction of a percentage point.
The poll did not include Ohio entrepreneur and anti-woke crusader Vivek Ramaswamy, an oversight, according to Hood. Ramaswamy, the youngest candidate in the race, placed in the top 5 in the Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics earlier this month, but, like the other declared candidates in the field, has distantly trailed Trump.
DeSantis fares much better in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, garnering 40.7 percent support from respondents to Trump’s 51.4 percent. Pundits believe the Florida governor will announce his campaign sometime after the Sunshine State’s legislative session wraps up early next month.
The SPIA GOP Presidential Primary Poll of 983 likely Republican primary voters in Georgia, was conducted April 2-7, after Trump was indicted and, much of it, after he was arrested and booked on nearly three-dozen felony counts of falsifying New York business records. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a highly partisan Democrat who campaigned on going after the former president, is prosecuting Trump in connection with hush-money payment made to cover up alleged affairs before the 2016 presidential election.
Georgia Republicans, like Republicans — and a majority of voters — nationwide, see Bragg’s prosecution of Trump as politically motivated. Just 7.7 percent of SPIA poll respondents say the unprecedented indictment against Trump should disqualify him from running for president again, with more than 89 percent saying it shouldn’t.
Trump’s favorability ratings remain relatively high in the poll, at 78 percent. More than 81 percent of respondents have a favorable view of DeSantis, while Pence’s ratings are at a significantly lower 60 percent. The former vice president was booed while walking on stage Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention — held in Pence’s home state. Haley’s favorability rating is 59 percent, but nearly 25 percent of respondents don’t know enough about the candidate.
The problem for Trump, Hood said, is that he could, based on his polling numbers nationwide, easily capture the Republican Party nomination but lose the general election.
“Where does that put the Republican Party in terms of the general election? I don’t know if Trump is all that competitive in the general election. A lot of independents have left Trump behind and they probably won’t return.”
The Georgia poll finds a majority — 59.2 percent of respondents — say Trump has had a mainly positive impact on the GOP. But 25 percent say he has had a negative influence on the party. Still, nearly 85 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump if he is the Republican Party nominee. Another 6.2 percent said they would vote for the Democratic Party’s candidate, and 2.2 percent would vote for a third-party candidate.
Georgia’s primary is open to all registered voters in the state, regardless of party. The poll includes about 18 percent of voters who identify as liberals and moderates, too.
Even Germany-based Politico describes President Joe Biden’s poll numbers as “grim” as the octogenarian prepares for his re-election bid. The Democrat’s approval ratings are so far under water he’s seeing dragonfish.
“Polls show his approval rating is hovering in the low 40s, right around the mark where some of his predecessors who were denied second terms sat at this point of their presidencies,” the publication reported.
Biden’s average approval rating was at 43 percent, about 9 points lower than his 52 percent disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight. That’s only 1 point higher than Trump’s FiveThirtyEight approval rating on April 15, 2019, at the same point in his presidency.
The University of Georgia’s Hood said the caveat to the April 2023 polling results for the 2024 presidential election is that it’s very early.
“I thought Trump’s support in Georgia might have softened some. I was obviously completely wrong on that,” the pollster said.
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