Did you notice that the polling results so far in the 2024 contest are all over the place? The New York Times’ Upshot site did too: While the first voting is nearly a year away, and only one candidate is officially in the race, the Republican presidential contest is taking shape. And while numerous former governors and cabinet officials are rumored to have interest in getting in the race, the contest is expected to come down to former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Who’s winning, so far? That depends on who you ask.
The New York Times’ The Upshot column this week looked at how wildly divergent polls are between Donald Trump and DeSantis.
“At the onset of the Republican campaign, the polls are exceptionally divided on Mr. Trump’s support among Republican primary voters,” Nate Cohn wrote for the site. “In national surveys since last November’s midterm election, different pollsters have shown him with anywhere between 25 percent and 55 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate field.”
According to a chart published by the Times, Trump has 55 percent support according to Emerson College, 48 percent according to Morning Consult, 37 percent according to Quinnipiac, and all the way down to Ipsos with just 25 percent.
That Morning Consult tracking poll, in particular, has had Trump leading, with 48 percent in a multi-candidate field, with DeSantis second with 31 percent.
Aside from Donald Trump, none of those candidates are officially in the race, although Haley is expected to announce a run later this month, with more to come.
Why the big differences? Some polls are mere approval ratings. Some ask for Trump’s support head to head against only DeSantis, and others in a multi-candidate field. Meanwhile, the methodologies differ by a great deal, including how the different surveys define the Republican primary electorate.
But even when the question is the same, results differ wildly from poll to poll.
“In just the last two weeks, an Emerson College poll found Mr. Trump leading Mr. DeSantis by 26 points, 55 percent to 29 percent, in a multi-candidate field, while a Bulwark/North Star/Dynata poll over a similar period found Mr. DeSantis leading by 11 points, 39 percent to 28 percent,” the Times said.
“If it’s not the mode, the population, the timing, the question or the weighting, there’s really one explanation left: the sample itself. For some reason, some pollsters are getting a vastly more Trump-friendly group of Republican respondents than others,” Cohn said of the polls. “Or, to be more blunt about it: Someone’s data could be extraordinarily and unacceptably inaccurate — inaccurate to a degree we would have never guessed until pollsters started asking about a new race.”
Polls Have Problems
The Times sees this as a bad sign for the polling industry.
“And the existence of such a wide split betrays that the survey research industry may be in far worse shape than one might have otherwise guessed,” the site said. “While the exact reason for the vast spread in survey results is hard to ascertain, the likeliest explanation is that many well-known pollsters are collecting profoundly unrepresentative data.”
Cohn argued that “probability polls” tend to show weakness for Trump, while state polling also isn’t going the former president’s way either.
“The usual caveat applies that it’s early, and news events and campaigns could reshape things. And to be clear, this is a very rough inference. There are only a half-dozen nonpartisan state polls at this point, and it is always hard to divine national estimates from state polls. But no matter how you look at these data points, they’re on the bad side of the ledger for Mr. Trump,” Cohn wrote.
Trump threw another wrench into the race this week when he said, as he did in 2015, that he might not back the Republican nominee if it’s not him.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.