Trump Dominates Republican Field: Will Legal Troubles Derail His Comeback?

by | Jun 16, 2023


Trump Dominates Republican Field: Will Legal Troubles Derail His Comeback?

Exploring Trump’s Lead, DeSantis as Alternative, and the Looming Legal Battles

As the Republican Presidential primary field expands, the focus remains on how each candidate compares to former President Donald Trump and their viability against President Joe Biden, the incumbent and presumptive Democratic nominee. According to the latest Premise Poll, Trump maintains a commanding lead over the Republican field, with 54% support among registered voters, while Ron DeSantis emerges as the most credible alternative, securing 24% support. Furthermore, in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters Trump leads DeSantis 58% – 32%. 

The field of Republicans who seek to challenge Trump’s dominance in the party continues to grow, with over a dozen candidates currently in the field. Last week former Vice President Mike Pence and Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie both announced their intentions to seek the nomination. However, voters have little confidence that either of these new entrants will receive the Republican nomination. Only 17% of those surveyed think it is at least somewhat likely that Christie will receive the nomination, while Pence fares slightly better, as 28% believe he is at least somewhat likely to make it to the general election. Despite the crowded field, Trump’s largest obstacle to returning to the White House may be his growing legal troubles. 

Of those who were aware of Trump’s most recent indictment on charges related to mishandling classified documents, a plurality felt positive about the indictment (39%), and a large portion of those surveyed felt neutral (33%).  Despite largely positive or neutral feelings, only a small percentage (23%) believe it is at least somewhat likely that Trump will go to jail based on these allegations. The smallest group among those surveyed was those who felt negatively about the indictment (28%). Even among Republicans, those who felt negatively about Trump’s latest indictment did not comprise a majority (44%), which mirrors their reaction to his previous indictment tied to the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels (40%). This may suggest that Republicans are tiring of Trump’s controversies, but currently, his poll numbers remain strong. 

In terms of the general election, the Premise Poll shows a close race between Trump and Biden with Trump leading 44% to 43% among registered voters. Biden, however, maintains a lead over Trump’s nearest competitor DeSantis 41% to 36% (22% undecided). While Biden faces challenges within his own party, including lukewarm approval ratings (64% of Democrats at least somewhat approve) and doubts about his re-election bid (53% of Democrats believe he should not run in 2024), there is no clear second choice among Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris leads the pack with 22% support, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders (14%), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (14%), and California Governor Gavin Newsom (10%). It is unlikely that any of these four will directly challenge Biden, solidifying his position as the 2024 Democratic nominee.

The economy and inflation remain top concerns for voters with 25% citing the economy and 20% mentioning inflation as the most important issues. Perceptions of the economy are unfavorable with 80% rating it as fair or poor. On the other hand, issues on which Democrats likely prefer to focus do not seem as important to the public. Climate change (7%), health care (6%), abortion (4%), and LGBTQ rights (3%) all fail to reach 10% when voters are asked what issue is most important to them today. If the economy fails to improve and Democrats are unable to refocus the public on other topics in the lead up to the 2024 election, Trump, or another Republican, may stand to benefit.

In summary, both Biden and Trump face unique challenges in the upcoming election. While Biden struggles with support within his own party and concerns about the economy, he is still likely to secure the Democratic nomination due to the absence of a clear second choice. Trump maintains a strong lead among Republicans, but as his legal troubles compound DeSantis is a strong alternative. The economy and inflation remain pressing concerns for voters and perceptions of the economy could heavily influence the 2024 election outcome. As the political landscape evolves, these dynamics will continue to shape the race, making it an intriguing and closely watched contest.

These findings are based on a Premise Poll conducted with 1,918 Americans using the Premise smartphone application. The poll employed stratified sampling of the opt-in panel members, weighted by age, gender, region, and education to provide a representative sample.