A new poll shows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis statistically tied with former President Donald Trump in the Sunshine State’s presidential primary race, a reversal of fortune for DeSantis from a few months ago.
But Fort Meyers, Florida-based pollster Victory Insights has provided no topline or key demographic background data on the poll, raising more questions about surveys used to power a narrative that DeSantis is more electable than Trump.
The poll of 700 likely GOP presidential primary voters “throughout Florida,” conducted May 25-27, shows DeSantis with a slight edge on Trump — 40.2 percent to 39 percent. — in a head-to-head matchup. That’s well within the survey’s 3.9 percent margin of error but a far sight better showing for DeSantis than in the Victory Insights April poll in which he lagged Trump by double digits. In that poll, conducted April 6-8, Trump led DeSantis 46.6 percent to 31.8 percent — a nearly 15-point lead — in a head-to-head theoretical contest.
In a full field of GOP presidential candidates, DeSantis’ lead narrows to just two-tenths of a percentage point, at 38.2 percent to Trump’s 38 percent. The April poll found Trump leading DeSantis by more than 8 percentage points in a wider field of competitors.
The Victory Insights poll has been a back-and-forth affair.
“Our November 2022 poll found Ron DeSantis leading Donald Trump by double digits in the Sunshine State. Then, last month, Trump was the one with the double-digit lead. Now, neither candidate has the lead,” Ben Galbraith, senior pollster for the firm, writes in the poll’s executive summary. “In the wake of DeSantis’s long-awaited announcement that he’s running for President of the United States, Florida Republicans have split evenly between DeSantis and Trump, resulting in a statistical tie in our latest poll regarding the race for the 2024 nomination.”
The poll is definitely at odds with most state and national surveys showing the former president with a significant lead over the Florida governor. Thursday’s RealClearPolitics’average of national GOP presidential primary polls shows Trump (53.2 percent) up by nearly 31 points on nearest challenger DeSantis (22.4 percent). A Florida Atlantic University poll in mid-April found nearly 6 in 10 respondents backed Trump, while a little over three in 10 supported DeSantis.
Galbraith said it’s hard to tell whether the latest results will “stick.”
It’s difficult to divine a lot of specifics from the poll. It was released to the media — at least the copies The Star News Network obtained — without basic nuts and bolts polling information. No topline. No methodology. No demographics.
The Star News Network requested the polling background information. An official from the firm sent back the same poll without the basic data.
“You should be able to find the information you need at this link to our report,” the Victory Insights Team responded. The Star News Network did not find the information it needed.
Trump pollster John McLaughlin calls it “polling mendacity.”
He’s been a vocal critic of political polls that don’t include the kind of polling method information his firm, McLaughlin & Associates, provides.
As The Star News Network has extensively reported, Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies (POS) has rolled out a bunch of battleground state polls this year insisting DeSantis fares better than Trump in head-to-head match-ups with Democrat President Joe Biden. But those polls have consistently underrepresented traditional Trump voters in the quest to spin DeSantis as more electable than the Republican Party presidential nomination frontrunner.
Ultimately, POS refused to release topline and demographic information to The Star News Network. The firm also wouldn’t talk about the people paying for the poll. As reported last week, Public Opinion Strategies announced Thursday — as DeSantis jumped into the race — that POS partners Gene Ulm and Robert Blizzard will be working for the DeSantis presidential campaign.
“We are excited to announce that POS Partners Gene Ulm and Robert Blizzard (@robertblizzard) will be supporting and working for Ron DeSantis for President, providing strategic advice and counsel to the campaign,” the firm tweeted.
“They’re manufacturing stories and headlines favorable to their candidate without data to back it up,” McLaughlin said.
The veteran pollster said the bigger problem is that some journalists have stopped asking for key polling information, instead simply regurgitating poll numbers to shape narratives.
“Normally, good journalists will ask for a topline, how the questions were asked, polling methodology, key demographics, and won’t print a poll without seeing that information,” McLaughlin said.
“The key thing is that a lot of people want to see Governor DeSantis get into the race and they’re lowering standards to encourage him into the race,” he said. “He certainly has been lead to believe that he’s more electable when he’s not.”
Before launching his campaign, DeSantis told donors and supporters on a private call that there are only three “credible” candidates in the race “and that only he would be able to win both the Republican Primary and the general election,” The New York Times reported.
“You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing,” DeSantis said on the call, organized by Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting him. “Biden, Trump and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president — Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him.”
DeSantis certainly has the money, and he’s building on his name recognition and popularity in Florida, where he won re-election in November by a landslide.
The new presidential candidate claims he raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours after launching his campaign. The one-day total topped Biden’s $6.3 million in the 24 hours after the octogenarian declared his bid for re-election, and far outpaced the $9.5 million Trump raised in his first six months of his 2024 presidential election bid. Trump has raised significantly more since.
DeSantis-backing super PAC Never Back Down has projected a $200 million budget to support the Florida governor’s presidential quest. A big chunk of that money — some $86 million — could come from his gubernatorial campaign war chest. Liberal watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging the transfer would violate federal election law.
Is part of the money going to support DeSantis’ presidential aspirations paying for, as McLaughlin puts it, “skewed” polling to create a false narrative on the governor’s prospects?
“Several of these firms are now working for Governor DeSantis, and if they’re polling encouraged him to run then they’ve benefitted from that deception,” he said.
– – –