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Haley fares best against Biden as GOP contenders hold national leads

In World
January 14, 2024

While Republican primary voters think Donald Trump is their best shot in November, it’s Nikki Haley who right now holds a bigger lead over Joe Biden than either Trump or Ron DeSantis in potential head-to-head match-ups.

In fact, as the GOP presidential nomination kicks off, Trump, Haley and DeSantis all have at least a slight national edge on President Biden right now, were they to emerge as his challenger. (Haley and DeSantis have tougher roads to get that chance, of course, since they trail Trump substantially in the race for the nomination.)

What’s behind Haley’s lead?

Here’s why Haley has such a lead over Biden: She draws more moderates and independents and more voters with college degrees than Trump does against Biden.

She also peels off more 2020 Biden supporters than either Trump or DeSantis does, and erases Mr. Biden’s edge with women.

Haley runs even with Mr. Biden on some key traits: she polls about even among those looking for a president who shows empathy and is open to compromise — qualities that large majorities of voters say is important to them.

By contrast Mr. Biden leads Trump and DeSantis among voters who want these qualities.

And Haley does just as well as Trump and DeSantis, if not a little better, among voters who say showing toughness is important.

But this all sets up what might figure to be a turnout election: Mr. Biden does better among those who say they’ll probably vote than those who definitely will.

Key factors in a potential Biden-Trump rematch?

It’s Trump right now who has a massive lead over his rivals in the national race for the Republican nomination. He has maintained a general election matchup edge over Joe Biden too.

Trump outpaces Biden by more than two-to-one in voters thinking they personally will be financially better off with Trump back in office.

Issues of race loom large over a hypothetical rematch.

For starters, more voters think diversity efforts in America are going too far, as opposed to not going far enough. This strongly cuts to the presidential vote.

Over a third of voters think Mr. Biden’s policies would favor racial minorities over White Americans, and nine in 10 of them are backing Trump.

Almost half the country believes Trump would favor White Americans over minorities — they’re overwhelmingly for Mr. Biden.

Democrats aren’t outright disappointed in what President Biden has done — relatively few of them say he’s done less than they expected of him.

But here’s where we see the economy take its toll on him: the sliver of Democrats who think they’d be financially better off with Trump are defecting at a much higher rate than other Democrats.

Indictments are not hurting Trump with his supporters

Instead of dragging him down, the criminal indictments of Trump are actually a net positive for his voters. For those backing him in the general election, more are voting to show support for him in the face of those indictments than voting for him despite concern about what he might have done.

That is true of both the Republicans and independents voting for Trump, and for even more of those supporting him who identify as MAGA.

And while Biden has made recent attempts to argue that a second Trump term would be a threat to democracy, that isn’t the main concern for much of the electorate. When asked to compare the two, half of likely voters say having a strong economy is a bigger concern for them than having a functioning democracy — including a third of Democrats.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,870 U.S. adult residents interviewed between January 10-12, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as past vote. The margin of error is ±2.5 points.

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