Ron DeSantis was surely hoping for a bump from his presidential campaign launch last week. But a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows no sign of improvement.
In fact, the survey of 1,520 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 25-30, suggests that the Florida governor may have actually lost ground against frontrunner and former President Donald Trump since officially entering the race for the 2024 GOP nomination during a glitchy Twitter Spaces event with the platform's billionaire owner Elon Musk.
Among potential Republican primary voters — registered voters who identify as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents — Trump now leads the full field of seven declared candidates with 53%. That’s up from 48% in early May, before DeSantis threw his hat in the ring. And DeSantis now lags further behind than he did just a few weeks ago; his 25% is down from 28% in early May.
Put another way, DeSantis trailed Trump by 20 points in the previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll. Today, he trails by 28 points.
None of the remaining candidates — former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (3%), Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (1%), South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (3%), tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (3%) or radio host Larry Elder (1%) — clear the 5% threshold.
A hypothetical two-way matchup, meanwhile, is no better for DeSantis, with Trump leading 55% to 31% (up from 50% to 36% in early May).
It’s worth noting that while the margin of error for the full Yahoo News/YouGov survey is 2.7%, smaller subsets of respondents — like potential Republican primary voters — always have a larger margin of error to account for random irregularity in the numbers. The swing toward Trump and away from DeSantis technically teeters right on the edge of this margin of error (4.9%).
Regardless, DeSantis’s stock has not risen — and may have even fallen — during his first days as a presidential candidate.
The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll hints at why.
One reason may be the unconventional nature of DeSantis's rollout. The governor's problem is not that potential Republican primary voters have turned against him in droves because the audio cut out on Twitter Spaces or because he used too much right-wing internet jargon in his initial campaign appearances; overall, just 13% of them say that DeSantis's launch left them with a "negative" impression.
But it's possible that by foregoing the usual announcement theatrics — cheering crowd; dramatic backdrop; wall-to-wall cable news coverage — DeSantis missed an opportunity to improve his flagging image. Just a third (32%) of potential Republican primary voters, for instance, characterize their impressions of DeSantis's launch as "positive" — while nearly twice as many describe those impressions as "neutral" (39%) or say they're not sure (16%).
DeSantis’s favorable rating among potential GOP primary voters (77%) is also lower than Trump’s (83%). Trump’s relentless attacks against DeSantis may have taken a toll.
Another reason DeSantis may be struggling right out the gate is that the more voters learn about his agenda, the less plausible his main argument against the former president — that he would be the more “electable” GOP nominee next November — starts to look.
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll tested this dynamic in a number of ways.
Asked if “the rest of America would be better off” if it were governed “more” or “less” like Florida, just 29% of Americans say more.
Indeed, Yahoo News and YouGov asked about eight proposals that DeSantis recently signed into law in Tallahassee — key planks in the “Florida blueprint” he touts on the campaign trail. None were explicitly attributed to DeSantis. Only two earned more support than opposition among voters, and neither of them attracted majority support.
These six proposals are more unpopular than not:
Allowing people to carry a concealed firearm without a license or safety training: 22% of voters favor, 69% oppose.
Banning public colleges and universities from funding campus activities or programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion: 29% favor, 55% oppose.
Banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (including for victims of rape and incest who can't provide official documentation of the crime, such as a police report): 35% favor, 51% oppose.
Requiring all books available to children in public schools, including those selected by their teachers, to be separately reviewed by a media specialist (like a school librarian) for content the government deems inappropriate: 34% favor, 50% oppose.
Banning majors or minors in critical race theory, gender studies or intersectionality at public colleges and universities: 36% favor, 48% oppose.
Arresting people for trespassing if they use bathrooms in public buildings that do not correspond to their sex at birth: 40% favor, 43% oppose.
And these two proposals attract plurality — but not majority — backing (in large part because of overwhelming support from Republicans):
Penalizing doctors with up to five years in prison for providing hormone treatments or surgical care to transgender minors: 48% favor, 40% oppose.
Prohibiting public school employees from calling students by pronouns other than those matching their sex at birth: 43% favor, 41% oppose.
To gauge whether DeSantis’s agenda is helping or hurting his electability, Yahoo News and YouGov then pointed out that “all of the proposals from the previous question have been put forward or signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis” and repeated a question from earlier in the poll asking respondents to describe their chances of voting for him next November.
Notably, the number of independents who now said they would definitely not vote for DeSantis rose 4 points (from 34% to 38%) — while the share of potential Republican primary voters who said they definitely would vote for DeSantis dropped by six points (from 55% to 47%).
Whether this reflects concerns about the connection between "extreme" policies and electability is beyond the scope of the poll. But for now, at least, potential Republican primary voters are not buying DeSantis's claim that only he and Biden — and not Trump — "have a chance to get elected president." When asked directly "which of these two Republicans do you think has the best chance of winning the 2024 general election for president," 55% of them select Trump – and just 31% select DeSantis.
Nonetheless, the poll shows that Biden now leads Trump among registered voters 48% to 41% (up from 45% to 43% in early May). And despite his talking points, DeSantis doesn’t perform any better, trailing Biden by 6 points (40% to 46%).
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,520 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 25-30, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.