New Ranked Choice Poll Examines The Republican Presidential Field After Second Debate

WPA Intelligence and FairVote fielded a national poll of 801 likely Republican presidential primary voters on September 28-30, following the second Republican presidential debate. The poll also included an oversample of 400 respondents from “early states” voting before Super Tuesday. A previous poll examined Republican primary voters after the first debate in late August. 

Ranked choice polling provides more information on voter preferences, including voters’ backup choices, which candidate they prefer if their favorite drops out of the race, and which candidates are strong “consensus” picks (ranked in voters’ top 3 or top 5 choices). 

The memo below outlines toplines and key findings, including:

  • Nationally, Donald Trump remains the clear front-runner (with and without ranked choice voting). Trump leads with 48% of voters’ first choices, similar to the 49% he received in late August. In a ranked choice voting tabulation, Trump beats Nikki Haley, 62%-38%.
  • In the early state sample, Trump leads with 43% of voters’ first choices. But in an RCV tabulation, Ron DeSantis earns a majority faster than Trump and comes out on top, 51-49% (within the poll’s margin of error). 
  • In both the national and early state samples, Trump is both the most popular first-choice candidate and the most popular last-choice candidate (13th out of 13). In the national poll, 24% of respondents rank Trump 13th; this is up from 17% in August. In the early state sample, 28% of respondents rank Trump 13th. 
  • In the early state sample, four candidates are real rivals to Trump, but polling shows that DeSantis is the only candidate who beats Trump head-to-head. Along with DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie are all within the margin of error during the round-by-round count, suggesting any of them could make it to the final round in an RCV contest. In other words, the field could consolidate around any of these contenders. 
  • Nationally, Ramaswamy has gained support since the August poll. His share of first-choice support has nearly doubled, from 7% to 13%. 
  • Nationally, a large but decreasing share of Trump voters are completely committed to their choice; other voters are more flexible. Among Trump voters, 40% are completely committed (representing 19% of all poll respondents), down from 48% completely committed in August (representing 23% of all respondents).
  • Nationally, Republican voters support ranked choice voting. 62% of respondents would support using ranked choice voting in 2024 primary elections, compared to 24% who would not support it.

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