Today, FiveThirtyEight is launching our national polling average for the 2024 Republican presidential primary. It shows former President Donald Trump receiving 49.3 percent of the national vote and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (who has not officially entered the race) receiving 26.2 percent. Former Vice President Mike Pence, another potential candidate, is at 5.8 percent, while declared candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is at 4.3 percent.
Some people will say that national primary polls aren’t important because there is no national primary (just a series of state-by-state contests). Others will tell you it’s too early — more than nine months away from the Iowa caucuses — to put much stock in polls. But we think there’s value in a national polling average, even (especially?) this early: According to our research, national primary polls conducted the year before the election are reasonably predictive of the eventual nominee.
Specifically, when candidates are polling above about 30 percent nationally, they have historically had a decent chance of becoming the nominee. That chance increases the higher their polling numbers are. On the flip side, though, candidates with polling below around 20 percent have been pretty unlikely to win, and those polling below 10 percent are usually doomed.
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It’s important to note that our polling averages are not a forecast; they are a backward-looking description of what the polls have said, not a forward-looking prediction of the final vote. But right now, the averages imply that Trump is favored to win the nomination, and DeSantis has a decent chance too. Haley and Pence are longer shots.
Of course, it’s only April 2023, so there’s plenty of time for the polls to change. We’ll specifically be watching to see how the unfolding legal cases against Trump affect his standing — we only have a few polls conducted since Trump’s indictment, but his lead over DeSantis has already increased from 19 points on March 29 to 23 points today. Once we have enough polls, we’ll also be rolling out polling averages for how the candidates are faring in specific states — like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
We hope you find these averages useful, as we put a lot of thought into them. Constructing a polling average isn’t as simple as it sounds; there were lots of methodological choices we had to make. For one thing, our state polling averages will move in tandem with our national polling average, even if no new polls have been released in that state. (For example, if we haven’t gotten an Iowa poll in a month but DeSantis has gained 10 points nationally in that time, it’s safe to say that DeSantis has gained around 10 points in Iowa, too, and that will be reflected in our average.)
In addition, our polling averages do not include head-to-head polls (e.g., between Trump and DeSantis). That’s because the 2024 Republican primary will not be a two-person race. Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a host of other candidates are already running. So while it’s interesting that DeSantis does better against Trump in head-to-head polls than multiway ones, those polls don’t reflect real life and so don’t influence our averages (unless and until the race does boil down to a two-way contest).
Bookmark our 2024 polling average for quick reference as the primary season unfolds. The trendlines are mostly flat for now, but there’s a good chance they won’t stay that way.
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Author: Nathaniel Rakich