Do Americans Like Donald Trump, Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis?

The picture remains fuzzy, but the 2024 presidential candidate field is starting to come into focus. As the nomination contests develop over the coming months, FiveThirtyEight will naturally be keeping tabs on presidential primary and general election polls, but we are also interested in the broader public’s opinion of the contenders. We’ll monitor President Biden’s job approval rating, but for presidential aspirants who don’t yet hold that office, we’ll watch polls asking whether respondents have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them — or don’t have an opinion at all.

In light of this, we’re now tracking the favorability ratings of major candidates on FiveThirtyEight’s polls page! We’ve been monitoring former President Donald Trump’s favorability rating since 2021, but we’ve now added polling for three other declared or would-be GOP contenders: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence. Moving forward, we’ll add more candidates from both parties, as long as they meet FiveThirtyEight’s definition of a major candidate.

Who is Nikki Haley, Trump’s 1st major challenger for GOP presidential nomination?

One note of caution: These figures show favorability ratings among the public as a whole, so they don’t tell us how primary voters view these candidates. If primary voters like a candidate who isn’t that well-known, that candidate might have room to grow support in election polling. At the same time, a candidate could end up shifting opinions because of the positions they take and the rhetoric they use, much like Trump did during the 2016 cycle. That, in turn, could influence how the public as a whole views them, affecting the averages we’ve presented here.

With those caveats, let’s take a look at how Americans perceive four of Biden’s potential GOP opponents. 

We’ll start with Trump, who declared his candidacy back in November. A deeply polarizing figure, Trump has consistently had a higher unfavorable rating than a favorable one since he left office in January 2021. Currently, about 43 percent of Americans view him favorably, and 52 percent view him unfavorably. As a result, Trump’s net favorability (favorable percentage minus unfavorable percentage) stands at about -9 percentage points. It’s no wonder, then, that many Republican leaders worry about him winning the GOP’s nomination and having to face the broader November electorate.

Haley is also officially running, and the good news for her is that she’s far less divisive than Trump. About 38 percent view Haley favorably versus 31 percent who view her unfavorably, which gives her a +7 net favorability rating. Of course, that also means Haley is not nearly as well-known as Trump, but that could be a good thing: She has the opportunity to gain in favorability as people learn more about her (although partisanship will impede most Democrats from holding a positive opinion of her).

Now, Trump leads most early primary polling, but DeSantis is currently in the best position to challenge the former president for the GOP nomination. Even though DeSantis has not yet entered the race, he is widely expected to. About 44 percent have a favorable view of DeSantis, and 36 percent have an unfavorable view. That means more people are familiar with him than Haley, but despite that, his net favorability rating of +8 is better. If you’re DeSantis’s nascent campaign operation, that figure could be evidence for potential donors and supporters that the Florida governor is in a better position to win a general election than the more unpopular Trump.

Lastly, Pence is the other big name who hasn’t yet declared. Like Trump, Pence has mediocre favorability numbers. Overall, about 34 percent have a favorable view of Pence, while about 48 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. Some of Pence’s poor standing is undoubtedly due to his link to Trump, which has probably predisposed Democrats (and many independents) to hold unfavorable views of him. But Pence also doesn’t have especially great numbers among Republicans, which has been the case since he refused to aid Trump’s attempts to undermine the 2020 election.

The numbers we’ve run through give an overview of how the public views these major Republican presidential contenders. They could influence voters and party bigwigs as to who is more electable in a general election, and they can tell us how well-known a candidate is.

Could Biden be vulnerable in a primary? | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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