By Manzanita Miller
After last week’s announcement by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that he is officially running against former President Trump for the GOP nomination, polls continue to show Trump ahead by wide margins, especially among strongly conservative voters.
A New UC Berkeley poll shows Trump ahead by eighteen percentage points (44% to 26%) among California Republicans, a reversal from three months ago when Trump trailed DeSantis by eight points.
Despite DeSantis making an appeal to socially conservative voters when he launched his campaign last week, Trump leads DeSantis among strongly conservative voters, while moderates appear open to considering a new candidate.
Among strongly conservative Californians, 87% hold a favorable view of Trump, while among moderates, 56% view him positively. DeSantis performs significantly worse with strongly conservative voters, but fares about as well as Trump with moderates.
This is notable because California Republican voters are a group which on paper could favor DeSantis. Polling data has shown that DeSantis’ strongest support stems from higher-income and higher-educated voters, particularly in the Generation X age cohort.
The Berkeley poll shows Trump’s approval rating has been increasing substantially in California over the past few months, despite his legal battle dominating headlines. Since February, the percentage of California Republican voters holding a positive view of Trump has increased five percentage points from 69% to 74%.
Over the same period, DeSantis’ favorability rating dropped slightly from 79% to 75% according to the poll. However, the share of voters who hold a strongly favorable view of DeSantis declined ten percentage points from 54% to 43% according to the poll.
Trump enjoys a substantial advantage among men and likely non-college voters according to the UC Berkeley poll, a finding that has been observed in nationwide polls as well. DeSantis performs better among moderates, where he competes neck and neck with Trump among likely Republican voters.
The poll also hints at a pattern in California that runs contrary to the recent national and early primary state polls. In national polls as well as a recent Iowa poll, Trump is the frontrunner among younger voters, but this does not appear to hold in California.
A recent Emerson poll of Iowa GOP voters found that voters aged eighteen to thirty-four favor Trump over DeSantis by a whopping 62 percentage points. That lead drops to a 28-point lead among voters aged thirty-five to forty-nine years old. The poll found among voters aged fifty to sixty-four, Trump earns a 33-point lead over DeSantis, and among voters over 65, Trump’s lead increases again to 47 percentage points over DeSantis. However, younger California Republicans appear to favor DeSantis slightly, as DeSantis enjoys a slight edge over Trump with voters under 40 according to the pollsters.
The latest nationwide Real Clear Politics poll highlights Trump’s commanding position with 56% of the vote, while DeSantis trails at 19.9%, and Mike Pence garners 5.9% support.
This comes on top of polling showing Trump is gaining ground nationally with most groups within the Republican party, and leads DeSantis by wide margins with young people, minorities, independents, and lower-income voters.
YouGov polling conducted in late March compared to now shows Trump has gained 9 percentage points with voters under thirty since news of his indictment broke. He has also gained 7 points with lower-income voters and 6 points with Independents.
Even urban voters and moderates have incrementally inched Toward the trump in recent weeks, supporting him by 4 percentage points higher than they did in March. Trump has also gained incrementally with minorities, adding two points apiece with Black and Hispanic voters over the past month.
YouGov polls also show over half of GOP primary voters aged 18-29 have a favorable view of Trump (51%) compared to only 43% for DeSantis. Among voters aged 30-44, Trump is favored by 49% while DeSantis has the support of 36%. For voters aged 45-64, Trump leads DeSantis by 7 percentage points. However, voters over 65 prefer DeSantis by 5 percentage points nationally.
Previous polling data from Emerson College finds that education is another primary variable that splits Trump and DeSantis voters. Trump leads the Florida governor by 56 percentage points among voters with a high school education or less. His highest support continues to come from voters with some college education but no degree, where he leads DeSantis by a full 63 percentage points, and that drops to a lead of 24 points among college graduates.
In recent elections, educated and affluent Californians in suburban areas like Orange County, who have typically supported the Republican Party, have shifted their allegiance toward Democrats in the post-Trump era. This trend began during the 2016 presidential contest and has persisted in subsequent elections.
While California is a decidedly left-leaning state, California sends 169 delegates to the Republican National Convention, making the state influential in the selection of a primary candidate. Based on early polling, it appears California moderates may put up a fight against Trump and move to select DeSantis, despite the Governor’s conservative social stances. However, California moderates will have to go head-to head with conservatives who remain steadfast Trump supporters.
Manzanita Miller is an associate analyst at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.
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