2024 poll: DeSantis edges Trump in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary

A public opinion survey in New Hampshire, the state that for a century has held the first primary in presidential race, indicates that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a razor-thin margin over former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2024 GOP primary match-up.

According to polling numbers released on Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 39% of likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State would support the first-term Florida governor, with 37% backing the former president. Respondents were provided a list of potential contenders for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, and DeSantis margin was well within the survey’s sampling error.

Former Vice President Mike Pence stood at 9% in the survey, with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, at 6%. The other possible Republican White House hopefuls on the list offered by the pollsters stood at one percent support, or less.

The survey suggests support among New Hampshire Republicans for DeSantis is surging. Trump held a 43%-18% advantage in support of DeSantis the last time the UNH Survey Center asked a 2024 GOP presidential nomination preference question, in October of last year. Trump topped DeSantis 47%-19% in UNH’s survey last July.

"Trump slipping in pre-primary polls is part of a typical pattern, UNH Survey Center director Andrew Smith said. "A party’s losing candidate in the prior election is typically the best-known person in the party. As the primary gets closer, new candidates emerge and attract more media attention, and therefore more voter attention, than the losing candidate from the previous election."

DeSantis has seen his popularity surge among Republican voters in his state and around the nation over the past two years, thanks in large part to his relentless pushback against COVID-19 restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as his aggressive actions in the culture wars. While DeSantis has repeatedly deflected talk of a potential run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as he runs this year for reelection, pundits view him as a possible White House contender. Trump repeatedly teases making another presidential run in 2024.

Longtime New Hampshire-based national GOP consultant David Carney pointed to the increased press coverage of DeSantis over the past year and a half.

"It just shows the power of earned media. Being on TV matters and the president’s not on TV as much as he was, and DeSantis went from 18% to 37% over the past year and it’s certainly not from people visiting Florida. It’s because of the power television news," noted Carney a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns the past couple of decades.

"It certainly shows the power of Fox News and other conservative media with primary voters, because DeSantis has had a huge footprint there on the things that he does and it’s resonating with voters, just like Donald Trump did ahead of the 2016 race and during his presidency," Carney emphasized.

The poll indicates DeSantis with a massive 66% net favorability among likely GOP primary voters, ahead of Trump’s 46% net favorability. Another Republican politician with possible national ambitions — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem — stood at 35% net favorability. Pence, of note, stood at negative 4% net favorability in the survey.

Besides being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state, New Hampshire is also a perennial general election battleground. Trump lost the state’s four electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by a razor-thin margin in the 2016 election. President Biden won the state by 7 points in the 2020 election.

The poll indicates Biden topping Trump 50%-43% in New Hampshire in a hypothetical 2024 general election matchup, but shows DeSantis edging Biden 47%-46%.

The UNH Survey Center poll was conducted June 16-20, with 845 likely 2024 general election voters — including 318 likely GOP primary voters — questioned online. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, with a sampling error or plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for likely GOP primary voters.