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Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Trump and Biden both get big boost after winning first round of primaries

Joe Biden and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jacquelyn Martin/AP, Ronda Churchill/Reuters)
Joe Biden and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jacquelyn Martin/AP, Ronda Churchill/Reuters)

After the first round of 2024 primaries and caucuses, voters on both sides of the aisle are now setting aside their earlier misgivings and rallying around President Biden and former President Donald Trump as their likeliest nominees, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,594 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, finds Trump leading his last remaining GOP challenger, former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, by 65 percentage points, 79% to 14%, among potential Republican primary voters.

Despite a strong performance in New Hampshire, Haley trails Trump by a wider margin today than in December, when she polled at 19% to his 70% in a then-hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

At the same time, a full 74% of potential Democratic primary voters now say they support Biden as their 2024 nominee against self-help author Marianne Williamson (4%) and Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (3%) — up from 68% who said in December that they would vote for Biden in their state’s primary or caucus.

The longstanding desire for alternatives to Trump and Biden is also waning as voters come to terms with a potential 2020 rematch. Seventy-two percent of Republican primary voters now say they prefer Trump over “someone else” (22%) for the party’s 2024 nomination — a rapid gain of 17 points for Trump since December.

Likewise, Democratic support for Biden (62%) versus someone else (28%) is 11 points higher than it was just last month — and less than half of potential Democratic primary voters (42%) say they want another Democrat to challenge the president, down from 50% in December and 54% in November.

Why voters are rallying to Biden and Trump

Among political professionals, this phenomenon is known as “consolidation” — the process by which voters increasingly gravitate toward the primary candidate who looks like the best bet to win the nomination.

Right now, consolidation is most pronounced on the Republican side, where Trump swept Iowa and New Hampshire — and where all of his rivals except for Haley have exited the race.

Trump’s 79% support against Haley, for example, is 23 points higher than the 56% he received in December against what was then a full field of challengers. More than 9 in 10 Republican primary voters (91%) think Trump will “probably” or “definitely” win the GOP nomination, including 59% who think he will definitely win. And 84% of Republican primary voters now rate Trump favorably (up from 77% in December) while 50% rate Trump very favorably (up from 40%).

In contrast, Haley’s position has weakened. Two-thirds of GOP primary voters (66%) say they want Haley to “drop out and allow Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination”; less than half as many (28%) want her to “keep running.” Just 3% think Haley will probably (2%) or definitely (1%) win the nod.

And though she frequently argues otherwise on the stump, Haley (35%) actually trails Biden (40%) among registered voters in a hypothetical general-election matchup — while Trump (45%) remains statistically tied with the president (44%). (Last month, Biden and Trump polled at 44% apiece.)

If Haley wants to remain in the race, perhaps a more welcome approach would be to frame her bid as a plan B in case something happens to Trump (who continues to face 91 felony charges in four separate criminal cases). Slightly more Republican primary voters (48%) say it’s at least somewhat important that they “have an alternative to Donald Trump on the ballot during the 2024 primaries and caucuses” than say it’s not important (46%).

Voters still ambivalent about a rematch election

To be sure, few registered voters are excited about another Trump-Biden contest. A mere 33% say Biden is “fit to serve another term as president”; a majority (56%) say he is not. More voters also consider Trump unfit (48%) than fit (45%). Yet for both candidates, these margins are narrower than they were in November (27% fit vs. 60% unfit for Biden; 41% fit vs. 50% unfit for Trump).

Why? Because Democrats are increasingly likely to say Biden is fit (64% now vs. 54% in November) — and Republicans are increasingly likely to say the same about Trump (84% now vs. 77% in November).

On questions of fitness, Trump enjoys more unanimity among Republicans than Biden does among Democrats. Yet when all registered voters are asked to choose which is “a bigger problem” regarding “their fitness for the presidency," slightly more select "Trump's criminal charges" (44%) than "Biden's age" (42%).

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,594 U.S. adults interviewed online from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.