As 2024 presidential election jockeying continues, new polling data shows that Republican voters are less concerned with a candidate’s electability than they are with a candidate being ideologically aligned with them.
The University of Georgia’s School of Public & International Affairs’ (SPIA) latest survey asked Republican voters “which is more important to you personally” — that the GOP nominate a 2024 presidential candidate with a strong chance of beating President Joe Biden, or that the party nominate a candidate “who shares your positions on major issues.”
Among respondents, 46.4 percent would prefer a candidate who agrees with them on major issues, even if that candidate would not beat Biden. Just 34.4 percent want the party to nominate someone who can beat Biden, but may disagree with them on major issues.
Republicans’ preference for an ideologically aligned candidate, rather than one who is more electable, translates across all demographic segmentations: race, sex, age and education.
This latest data comes as former President Donald Trump leads the pack of declared and likely Republican candidates, having surged ahead of his closest expected challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by a roughly 30-point margin.
“I think it’s a pretty clear signal that Republican voters are a lot less freaked out by Joe Biden than Democratic voters were by Donald Trump back in the 2020 primary,” Logan Phillips, founder of polling firm Race to the WH, told Timcast in an interview.
“Because when you had similar types of polls, the focus was electability 100 percent,” he added. “And the Joe Biden primary campaign very smartly realized that, and he made that their message from day one. And they were really well positioned to make that contrast of Bernie Sanders once it became a one-on-one race, and it wasn’t even close then.”
Race to the WH, which uses data-driven models to forecast elections, led all forecasters in most accurately predicting the outcome of the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races in the 2022 midterm elections.
“Republican voters, they don’t like Joe Biden, obviously. But, they still want the candidate that kind of fits a little closer with their ideals. There’s more of a purity test there,” he explained.
“Now I still think there’s obviously a lot of Republicans that care about electability. Donald Trump’s numbers plummeted by like 10-points overnight, right after the midterm elections when his candidates underperformed,” Phillip stated. “And so, there’s a vulnerability there that I’m sure DeSantis and others will hit him on in the debates and you’ll maybe be able to move some people there. But, it suggests that the electability case is not gonna be enough if these guys wanna beat Donald Trump.”
Though it may be of less concern to voters, electability is a growing concern among wealthy donors and a political establishment seeking to stop the now six-year trend of electoral underperformance by the GOP.
Some polling shows Trump leading Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup. But, a recent report from Race to the WH shows national-level polling with Trump and Biden tied in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, and state-level polling showing Biden likely claiming enough electoral votes to defeat Trump, which could make electability more important as the 2024 primary elections draw nigh.
Phillips told Timcast that Trump and Biden being so close in the polls despite two years of record inflation, soaring gas prices, billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, and other policy failures by the Biden administration is a sign of Trump’s unpopularity among the general electorate.
“It says that Donald Trump’s probably pretty unpopular. It’s also really hard for someone that lost the last matchup to do better,” Phillips said.
I mean, Americans just as generally love change, right? We’ve only had one president in American history who lost and won again. And when we have a handful of people that were nominees and ran a second time and won, which is really unusual when you compare it to most democracies in the world where you’ll keep seeing the same party nominate someone over, and over, and over again, and then eventually they’ll be able to come out ahead.
I think a pretty significant number of swing voters are ready to move on, probably from both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but maybe a little bit more from Donald Trump too.
The other thing here too, and this is why you can see the popularity challenges both [candidates] face, there’s a lot more undecided voters than you would normally see in a matchup where people know both candidates so well.