Trump surges to biggest lead yet over DeSantis in latest Quinnipiac poll following special counsel indictment

August 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Former President Donald Trump has been criminally indicted twice within the past two weeks, first federally by Special Counsel Jack Smith and then in Georgia by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in both instances in relation to his efforts to challenge the disputed 2020 election results.

In between the unveiling of those two indictments, a new poll was released that showed Trump with his largest lead to date over his nearest competitor for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to the Washington Examiner.

That tracks with what was found by other pollsters following a pair of earlier criminal indictments against Trump -- first in New York from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in relation to "hush money" payments during the 2016 election followed by Special Counsel Smith's indictment of Trump over his retention of government documents -- in which the former president received a boost in support while DeSantis fell further behind.

Widest margin yet between Trump and DeSantis

Quinnipiac University surveyed 681 registered Republican or Republican-leaning voters between August 10-14, with a 3.8 percent margin of error, and asked those respondents to name their current choice among the field of GOP candidates to be the party's nominee.

The pollsters found that 57 percent of those polled supported former President Trump compared to 18 percent who supported Gov. DeSantis, with no other candidate in the remainder of the field rising above 5 percent support.

It was noted that the 18 percent for DeSantis was his lowest level of support in the Quinnipiac polls so far this year and highlighted how the governor now trails the former president by 39 points after previously being only 6 points back in a February poll.

Majority of Republicans believe Trump should not face prosecution over unserious charges

It has been surmised that the criminal indictments against former President Trump have actually bolstered his support among Republicans, given the widespread perception that the charges are politically motivated, and that assessment appears to be supported by the results of the Quinnipiac poll.

In regard to the 2020 election-related indictment from Special Counsel Smith, 28 percent of Republicans said it made them view Trump more favorably while 59 percent said it had no impact and just 11 percent reported a less favorable view of the former president.

Along those lines, 85 percent of Republicans said Trump should not face prosecution compared to 12 percent who support the indictment, and a combined 66 percent of Republicans said the special counsel's charges against Trump were either "not too serious" (18 percent) or "not serious at all" (48 percent).

Rise of Trump and fall of DeSantis evident in RCP average

The Washington Examiner noted that the timing of this latest Quinnipiac poll meant that it fully captured the public's reaction following Special Counsel Smith's latest indictment of former President Trump in relation to his efforts to challenge the 2020 election results that he disputed but was concluded prior to the issuance of the criminal indictment in Georgia for similar alleged crimes.

As for the apparent surge in support for Trump concurrent with a collapse in support for Gov. DeSantis, that is clearly reflected in the RealClearPolitics average of 2024 GOP primary polls.

In February and March of this year, before the series of indictments or even DeSantis formally entering the race, the governor peaked in contrast to a low ebb for the former president and they were separated by less than 15 points.

Since the end of March, however, Trump has continued to track upward while DeSantis slides downward, and they are now separated by nearly 40 points as Trump enjoys the support of around 54.7 percent of GOP voters in comparison to the roughly 14.8 percent support DeSantis still retains.

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