MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll national survey finds that, as the race for president in 2024 now stands, Democratic President Joe Biden trails Republican former President Donald Trump by 5 percentage points among registered voters, with 52% for Trump and 47% for Biden. Biden also trails Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 4 percentage points, with 52% for DeSantis and 48% for Biden.
Many voters demonstrate reluctance to choose between either pair of candidates. When voters are given the choice of Biden, Trump, someone else, or not voting, 34% say Biden, 41% say Trump, 19% say someone else, and 7% say they won’t vote. When voters are given the same choices involving Biden and DeSantis, 37% say Biden, 38% say DeSantis, 18% say someone else, and 7% say they won’t vote.
This means that, with the options to vote for someone else or not to vote included in the question, 26% avoid choosing between Biden and Trump and 25% avoid picking Biden or DeSantis. In both matchups, the fact of relatively high percentages saying they would vote for “someone else” or would not vote indicates the potential for volatility in coming months as candidate choices are clarified.
Just among those who initially avoid choosing between Biden and Trump, when they are asked whom they would choose if they had to choose, 51% prefer Biden and 47% pick Trump. Just among those reluctant to choose between Biden and DeSantis, when pushed to make a choice, 42% support Biden and 58% back DeSantis.
The latest Marquette Law School Poll’s national survey was conducted May 8-18, 2023. The survey interviewed 1,010 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points. The sample includes 833 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. The sample size for registered Republican primary voters is 377, with a margin of error of +/-6.1 percentage points. The sample size for registered Democratic primary voters is 344, with a margin of error of +/-6.3 percentage points. In the May poll, primary voters are those who say they will vote in each party’s primary. In earlier surveys, registered voters who identified with a party or are independents who leaned to a party were asked the primary-vote questions. For simplicity hereafter, these are referred to simply as registered Republican or Democratic voters.
Both Biden and Trump are seen more unfavorably than favorably among registered voters nationwide, with Biden at 37% favorable and 60% unfavorable. Trump is seen favorably by 38% and unfavorably by 59%. While Biden and Trump are virtually universally familiar to voters, 23% say they haven’t heard enough to give a favorability rating for DeSantis, who is viewed favorably by 30% and unfavorably by 47%.
Partisans are quite positive toward their party’s candidates and very negative to the other party’s candidates. Independents regard all three candidates more unfavorably than favorably. Table 1 shows the favorability to Biden, Trump, and DeSantis, by party.
Table 1: Favorability to Biden, Trump, and DeSantis, by party identification, among registered voters
Trump leads among registered Republican voters, drawing support from 46%, with DeSantis the choice of 25%. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley receives 5%, businessperson Vivek Ramaswamy is the choice of 3%, and former Vice President Mike Pence is supported by 2%. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott receives 1%, as do talk radio host Larry Elder and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Former governors Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson received less than .5% support, while 16% said they were undecided. Table 2 shows the full results.
Table 2: Here are some potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. If the primary were today, who would you vote for? Among registered Republican voters.
*=less than .5%
In the March 2023 Marquette poll, Trump was supported by 40% and DeSantis was the choice of 35%, while Pence was the choice of 5% in that survey.
When asked to choose between only Trump and DeSantis, Trump is the choice of 52% and DeSantis is the choice of 48%. Trump has gained support since November while DeSantis has lost support. The trend is shown in Table 3.
When asked to choose between only Trump and DeSantis, DeSantis picks up 70% or more of the support of those who had previously chosen a candidate other than DeSantis or Trump or were undecided in the multi-candidate question. A handful of respondents shift away from their first choice of Trump or DeSantis in the subsequent two-candidate question.
Table 4: Choice between Trump or DeSantis only, by first choice in multi-candidate question, among registered Republican voters
Republican support for a Trump candidacy rose in May to 62%, while 38% would not like him to run. In January, 52% wanted him to run. The full trend is shown in Table 5.
DeSantis is viewed favorably by Republicans who are also favorable toward Trump, but this has fallen to 64% in May from 80% in March. His favorability among those unfavorable to Trump has also declined. Table 8 shows favorability to DeSantis by favorability to Trump in May and in March.
Table 8: DeSantis favorability, by Trump favorability, among registered Republican voters.
While Trump is nearly universally known, and former Vice President Mike Pence and DeSantis are fairly well known, most other potential Republican candidates are far less familiar to Republican voters. Table 9 shows the favorable, unfavorable, and haven’t-heard-enough responses to eight current or potential candidates.
Among registered Democrats, Biden leads the presidential primary field with support of 53%. He is followed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 12% and Marianne Williamson with 7% support, while 28% say they are undecided. This is the first time this question has been asked in the Marquette Law School Poll.
While Biden’s lead is substantial, a majority of registered Democrats wish he would not run in 2024. In May, 57% say they would not like him to run, while 43% would like him to do so. Biden leads in the primary field even among those who don’t wish him to run, but over 40% of this group say they are undecided, as shown in Table 10.
Those Democrats reluctant to see Biden run are nonetheless strongly supportive of him over Trump in the November election, as shown in Table 12 (a). For comparison, vote choice is also shown among Republicans for those who wish Trump would or would not run in Table 12 (b). Both candidates suffer modest crossover losses among their partisans reluctant for them to run.
Table 12: Vote choice, by whether voters want to see Biden or Trump to run, among registered Democratic voters or among registered Republican voters.
Among all adult respondents, approval of Joe Biden’s handling of his job as president held even from March to May at 39%, with 61% disapproving. Biden’s approval in May is the second lowest of his presidency in the Marquette poll. The full trend for Biden approval in Marquette Law School Poll national surveys is shown in Table 14.
Donald Trump’s indictment in New York topped news stories getting the most attention in recent weeks. Sixty-six percent of those polled said they had read or heard a lot about the indictment, while 29% heard a little and 5% heard nothing at all about this.
The second most attention was paid to the trial in a civil lawsuit against Trump over sexual assault and defamation, a case Trump lost as the survey began. Fifty-one percent said they had heard a lot about this, 37% had heard a little, and 12% had heard nothing at all.
A bit less noticed were news stories of shootings involving knocking on the wrong door and driving into the wrong driveway, about which 45% heard a lot, 37% heard a little, and 18% heard nothing at all.
A slightly smaller total, 42%, said they had heard a lot about DeSantis signing a Florida law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with 40% saying they had heard a little and 17% having heard nothing at all.
Opinion about abortion policy has fluctuated only slightly since May 2022, as shown in Table 15. Currently, 68% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 32% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.
As states have adopted widely varying laws concerning abortion following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, public opinion has strongly favored allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest, with 89% in favor and 11% opposed. Opinion on this has remained stable since September 2022, as shown in Table 16.
A large majority, 75%, oppose states making it illegal for a woman to get and fill prescriptions for medication from out-of-state providers to induce an abortion, while 25% favor making this illegal; the trend is shown in Table 17.
Table 17: Should a state be able to make it illegal for a woman to get and fill a prescription from out-of-state providers for medication that will induce an abortion, sometimes called “medication abortion” or “abortion pills”? Among all adults.
The public is opposed to restrictions on travel to another state to obtain an abortion, with 80% saying states should not be able to make such travel illegal and 20% saying states should be able to ban out-of-state travel for abortions. The trend on this item is shown in Table 18.
The public remains divided over policy views about when during a pregnancy abortions should be banned.
Policy preferences are sensitive to the specific limitations proposed on abortion. Several state legislatures have enacted or debated laws that would ban abortions (with some exceptions) at various stages of pregnancy. The May survey asked a series of questions about support or opposition to bans reflecting these state proposals. Each question included an exception for “medical emergencies.”
The question asked:
“Here are some limits on when during pregnancy an abortion might be banned, except in cases of medical emergencies, that some states are considering. How much do you favor or oppose each of these proposals?”
The results for the five alternative policies are shown in Table 19. There is majority opposition to bans at 15 weeks or less, majority support for bans after 6 months, and majority opposition to no restrictions at any point during a pregnancy.
Table 19: Favor or oppose abortion bans, by when ban would take effect, among adults
A number of states are considering changes to education policy, including universal vouchers for students attending private or religious schools.
“How would you rate the quality of education provided by the following types of K-12 schools in your community?”
Few respondents rate any of five types of school as “excellent,” though many rate them as “good.” Public schools fare the worst, with 45% rating them excellent or good, 32% rating them fair, and 23% giving them a poor rating. Private, non-religious schools receive the highest rating. The ratings for five types of school are shown in Table 20.
Several states have passed or are considering providing state funding for vouchers to pay for tuition for K-12 students to attend private or religious schools of their choice. Opinion is closely divided on this among adults nationally, with majorities of Republicans and independents in favor and a majority of Democrats opposed, as shown in Table 21.
Table 21: Provide state funding for vouchers to pay for tuition for K-12 students to attend private or religious schools of their choice instead of public schools, among all adults.
Support for such vouchers is stronger among those with school-age children in the home than those without such children, shown in Table 22.
A majority of the public, 60%, favor laws that allow most people to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun, while 40% are opposed. However, a larger majority, 76%, oppose allowing concealed carry without requiring a license, with 24% favoring such a law. Currently, 25 states allow concealed carry without requiring a license or permit, with Florida set to become the 26th such state in July. A majority of the public in these “permitless” states which do not require a license say they are opposed to this policy, as shown in Table 24. In states that require permits, most have “shall issue” laws that assume a permit will be issued except for members of certain groups such as felons, while eight states have “may issue” laws allowing somewhat greater discretion in issuing permits.
Table 24: Favor or oppose permitless concealed carry, by state gun law, among all adults.
State gun law
While a majority oppose permitless concealed carry, a majority of those in states with such laws are unaware that this is the law in their state. Of respondents in the 25 states with permitless carry laws, 44% say they know this is the law, while 22% erroneously say their state requires a license and 34% say they don’t know what the law is. These results are shown in Table 25.
State does allow concealed handguns without a license
State does NOT allow concealed handguns without a license
A large majority, 85%, favor so-called “red flag” laws that allow police to remove guns from people who have been found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, while 15% are opposed. This law is strongly favored both by those in households with guns and those without guns, as shown in Table 26.
A majority of the public, 62%, favor a ban on the sale of “AR-15 style” semiautomatic rifles, while 38% are opposed. On this item, a slight majority of gun households oppose such a ban, while a large majority of non-gun households favor it, as shown in Table 27.
Views concerning sports competition for transgender athletes find a majority, 71%, in favor of requiring that transgender athletes compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth, not the gender they identify with, while 28% are opposed to this.
A majority, 56%, also support bans on “gender-affirming” care such as hormone therapy or surgery for transgender minors under 18, while 44% are opposed.
A majority, 54%, say that recent killings of Black Americans by the police are part of a larger pattern of police treatment of Black people, while 46% say these are isolated incidents. Such opinions vary sharply by race and ethnicity, as shown in Table 28.
Racism is seen as very big problem by 41% of adults, as a moderately big problem by 33%, and a small problem or not a problem at all by 25%. Differences in views by race and ethnicity are shown in Table 29.
U.S. military aid to Ukraine has emerged as an issue with a partisan divide in recent months. In May, 34% say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine, 23% say the U.S. is not giving enough support, and 43% say the U.S. is giving the right amount of aid. The percentage saying “too much support” is unchanged since March, as shown in Table 30.
On the more general question of U.S. involvement in world affairs, 55% say it is better for the country to take an active part, while 45% say the U.S. should stay out of world affairs. Independents are especially skeptical of U.S. involvement in the world, with 64% saying we should stay out and a minority, 35%, saying we should take an active part. Republicans are evenly split on international involvement, and Democrats are substantially in favor of a U.S. role in the world, as shown in Table 32.
The latest Marquette Law School Poll’s national survey was conducted May 8-18, 2023. The survey interviewed 1,010 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points. The sample includes 833 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. The sample size for registered Republican primary voters is 377, with a margin of error of +/-6.1 percentage points. The sample size for registered Democratic primary voters is 344, with a margin of error of +/-6.3 percentage points.
Certain other data from this survey (those about public views of the Supreme Court) were released yesterday, on May 24. All results may be found on the Marquette Law School Poll website.
Interviews were conducted using the SSRS Opinion Panel, a national probability sample with interviews conducted online. The detailed methodology statement, survey instrument, topline results, and crosstabs for this release are available online.