It has been a week since Ron DeSantis kicked off his presidential campaign, and you know what that means! It means that there has been time to do new polling so we can look to see whether the Florida governor scored a polling bounce from his announcement.
If you’ve followed me for long, you know that I like to use polling averages. Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight both provide excellent if slightly different averages based on an aggregate of available polling. Using averages helps to smooth out blips from outlier polls and makes it easier to see long-term trends. The averages from the two sites can be different because of different choices on which pollsters to include or exclude as well as choices in weighting for factors like sample size, whether likely or registered voters are used, and pollster reliability. (One thing I like about FiveThirtyEight is that their site shows their rating for each pollster.) Further, different polls include different candidates, some are head-to-head and some contain the entire field plus other prospective candidates. Averaging between different types of polls can be tricky.
In this case, there is a stark difference between the two sites. The Real Clear Politics average shows an increase for DeSantis and a corresponding decline for Trump that began about May 20. This was about four days prior to his kickoff, but it was at a time when rumors of his impending announcement were generating buzz. Over the same time period, FiveThirtyEight has the two candidates on a mostly flat trajectory with DeSantis showing a very slight decline.
In the big picture, however, the bottom line of the two sites is similar. Real Clear Politics shows DeSantis currently trailing by about 31 points (53-22 favoring Trump) while FiveThirtyEight shows a 34-point gap (54-20). The fact that RCP shows a two-point bump since DeSantis’s announcement and FiveThirtyEight shows none may be beside the point.
You may wonder which site is more accurate and that’s a great question. We won’t know until after the election(s), but there are caveats. Polls are snapshots of history rather than predictive so the pollster that is closest today may be off tomorrow.
Additionally, as they say in financial markets, past performance is not indicative of future results. Because every election is different, with different voters motivated to turn out and independents breaking for different candidates and parties, the pollsters that came closest to estimating the makeup of the last electorate won’t necessarily repeat the feat next time.
Further, national polling is of limited use in primaries, which are actually a series of individual state (and territory) elections. Beyond that point, since primaries take place over a period of several months, early primary results can impact the outcome in later states. It’s also important to remember that not all primaries are winner-take-all. In some states, even runners-up can add to their delegate count.
If we look at individual polls that are contained in the polling averages, we see that RCP doesn’t list any polls taken since the kickoff. This raises the question of why the RCP average shows DeSantis surging upward two points if they don’t cite any polls within that timeframe. It’s possible that the site’s algorithm just continued the trajectory begun by previous polls.
On the other hand, FiveThirtyEight lists a veritable handful that took place at last partly following DeSantis’s announcement. These vary widely with DeSantis showing a low of 19 percent and a high of 35 percent. These polls average about a 32-point advantage for Trump, but since some of the polls offer several options for the primary question, it depends a lot on which numbers you take. DeSantis does better when other candidates are excluded, but he trails in every case.
The only poll listed that was taken completely after the announcement was a Morning Consult survey that showed Trump with a 56-22 lead. This was a two-point swing in DeSantis’s favor since the previous poll.
For 2024, there are currently three states that will hold primaries in January: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (per the current schedule, South Carolina’s Republican primary is in January and its Democratic primary is a week later in February). While an exhaustive look at polling for every primary would be - let’s face it - boring, it is worthwhile to check the polling for the first three contests.
For Iowa, the first in the nation and a caucus rather than a primary, there are no new polls listed since DeSantis’s announcement. The most recent poll listed by both sites is an Emerson College survey that ran from May 19-22. This poll showed a Trump lead of 62-20 percent.
In New Hampshire, the story is similar. The only recent poll is from American Greatness and was completed prior to DeSantis’s official campaign kickoff. Trump leads the field by 39-18, but a tidbit that you won’t get from the topline is that the state’s governor, Chris Sununu, is statistically tied with DeSantis for second place. Sununu’s 17 percent share is bringing down the rest of the field.
South Carolina does have one recent poll that covers the period of DeSantis’s official candidacy, if barely. Another American Greatness poll was taken on May 24-25 and shows Trump with a 43-18 lead over DeSantis. Two South Carolinians also in the race, Tim Scott and Nikki Haley (Lindsey Graham has apparently decided that further presidential campaigning is a waste of time), garnered 12 and 10 percent respectively.
We can look back at prior polling to compare to the post-announcement polling and look for a bump. RCP’s previous poll is from Winthrop University in April while FiveThirtyEight uses a National Public Affairs poll from a few days earlier in May. Although comparing polls from different companies is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, comparing Winthrop and NPA to the American Greatness poll shows a decline for DeSantis in both cases. Winthrop found Trump leading DeSantis by 41-20 (meaning that Trump also lost ground) and NPA showed Trump leading by 43-21.
Even though not all of these early states had recent polling, bookmark this article to refer back to as new polls come in. Remember that the raw numbers in polling are not as important as comparing trends over the long term.
We can also try one more trick on the FiveThirtyEight website. FiveThirtyEight gives us the ability to search for “all” Republican primary polls. If we look for other recent polling, we find that there is one poll since DeSantis’s announcement that we have not looked at.
Victory Insights found that DeSantis was favored by 40-39 in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, but when other candidates were considered, the two polled in a dead heat at 38-38. In April, Trump led 47-32 in the same poll, which could indicate a bump for DeSantis.
But wait! Last November, DeSantis led Trump in the same poll by 47-37. So did DeSantis gain ground or lose ground? It depends on your frame of reference.
It’s worth noting here that FiveThirtyEight rates Victory Insights as a B/C pollster. Other, better-rated, pollsters have shown a consistent Trump lead over the past few months. So is the DeSantis bump in the Victory Insights poll attributable to DeSantis’s announcement or Victory Insights being a garbage pollster that produced an outlier poll? Maybe both.
The bottom line here is that so far it’s hard to find evidence that Ron DeSantis’s entry into the presidential race has produced a polling bump for the Florida governor. Part of this is because of the dearth of polling since his announcement, but the polls that we do have do not indicate a significant change.
Out of curiosity, I flipped through the state-level polling and plugged the leader for each state into the 270towin map. Keep in mind that some polls were very old and some have not been polled at all this cycle. If there was no data or if it looked too close to call, I left the state blank. Limitations of the data notwithstanding, here is the current situation with Trump in red and DeSantis in blue. (Just ignore the electoral vote numbers.) With only a few patches of blue in a sea of red, the map illustrates DeSantis’s problem.
DeSantis has his work cut out for him. He’s trailing everywhere and his flubbed announcement seems to have blunted the impact of his campaign kickoff. There are 221 days between today and when the Iowa caucuses are estimated to be held next January. Time is ticking away and the DeSantis campaign has a long way to go.
The good news for Ron DeSantis is that it looks like peaking early won’t be a problem.
DEBT LIMIT BILL PASSES HOUSE: The House passed the debt limit compromise by 314-117. Both Democrats and Republican fringes opposed the bill with 46 Democrats and 71 Republicans voting no. The bill now heads to the Senate.
RIGHT-WING CANCELS CHICK-FIL-A: Republican activists are calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-after discovering that the company has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position. The Atlanta Journal reports that the offending page on the company website that has triggered MAGA has actually been there since 2020.
The DEI page can be viewed here: https://www.chick-fil-a.com/dei
The page contains the statement, “One of our core values at Chick-fil-A, Inc. is that we are better together. When we combine our unique backgrounds and experiences with a culture of belonging, we can discover new ways to strengthen the quality of care we deliver: to customers, to the communities we serve, and to the world. We understand that getting Better at Together means we learn better, care better, grow better, and serve better.”
A Twitter critic of the policy who was cited by the Journal claims that Chick-fil-a “cannot hold to that position and glorify God.”
I disagree. I believe that Chick-fil-a’s position, which does not appear to favor any race or ethnic group is both Biblical and godly. A number of verses, such as Colossians 3:9-11, tell us that all are equal at the foot of the cross.
The right has attempted to cancel Chick-fil-a in the past. In 2019, some Republican-leaning groups were upset that the company suspended donations to three groups that had been criticized by LGBTQMNOP protesters. The right’s anger didn’t last then though, and I doubt it will this time.
RUSSIAN SPY WHALES: Forget spy balloons, Sweden suspects an beluga whale is being used by the Russians to spy on shipping. LiveScience reports that the whale, nicknamed “Hvaldimir,” a pun involving the Norwegian word for “whale” and the Russian name, “Vladimir,” was first spotted in 2019 wearing a harness that said, “Equipment of St. Petersburg.”
The whale has recently been spotted near Sweden, reports the AP, which also notes that the Hvaldimir is no longer wearing the harness. It isn’t clear what happened to the harness, but Hvaldimir is reportedly very friendly and accustomed to humans.