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- A recent poll from YouGov asked respondents if they’d vote for Gov. Ron DeSantis if he received the GOP presidential nomination.
- The pollster then asked about eight of his policies without noting they were enacted or pushed by him.
- YouGov then revealed the policies were his and followed up about voting for him. DeSantis supporters revealed they were less inclined to vote for him after learning about his policies.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has a problem: prospective voters are turned off by his actual achievements in the governor’s mansion.
Leading Florida since 2019, DeSantis has signed into law a number of controversial bills, such as ones that restrict access to abortion services and ones that bar school libraries from carrying books containing LGBTQ themes.
DeSantis has become one of the most popular GOP governors, and a regular on Fox News, by leaning into cultural topics like fighting “wokeism” that animates the GOP base. But while his policies are popular with his Florida base, they’ll likely be a hurdle in his expected presidential race as polling shows Americans outside of the state are lukewarm and even outright opposed to of some of the laws he’s championed.
A recent poll from YouGov and Yahoo News highlighted this dynamic and showed that as supporters of DeSantis learned more about his policies, the less willing they were to vote for him.
A poll presents some vulnerabilities
The YouGov survey was conducted between March 16-20 with 1,582 respondents. YouGov first asked if the respondents would vote for the Florida governor if he received the Republican presidential nomination. Diving into the poll’s results, 40% of all respondents — over 620 respondents — said they “definitely” or “might” vote for DeSantis.
The pollster then asked respondents about eight of the policies that DeSantis has championed as governor, but didn’t note the relation to DeSantis.
More respondents opposed seven of eight of DeSantis’ policies than favored them:
- Banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (34% favored, 50% opposed)
- Banning public colleges and universities from funding campus activities or programs that promote diversity,
equity and inclusion (32% favored, 48% opposed)
- Allowing people to carry a concealed firearm without a license or safety training (22% favored, 66% opposed)
- Banning majors or minors in critical race theory, gender studies or intersectionality at public colleges and universities (35% favored, 43% opposed)
- Requiring all books available to children in public schools, including those selected by their teachers, to be separately reviewed by a media specialist (like a school librarian) for content the government deems inappropriate (36% favored, 44% opposed)
- Permanently banning schools and businesses from imposing COVID-19 mask or vaccine requirements (35% favored, 46% opposed)
- Granting political appointees the power to fire tenured faculty members at public colleges and universities at any time and for any reason (21% favored, 55% opposed)
- Banning transgender female athletes from playing on women’s and girls’ teams at public schools (52% favored, 31% opposed)
This polling holds up with other polling about controversial social policies recently pushed by several governors.
After inquiring about each of DeSantis’ policies, the pollster told respondents that “All of the proposals from the previous question have been put forward or signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. If DeSantis is the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, which of the following best describes your chances of voting for him in the general election?”
Once again, 40% of all respondents said they’d vote for DeSantis. On its face, it doesn’t look like anything changed.
Looking at the poll’s crosstabs, however, and it appears that DeSantis supporters were less likely to vote for him after learning about his policies.
When YouGov first asked if they would vote for him should he be the GOP nominee, 82% of those who preferred DeSantis over Trump said they’d “definitely” vote for him along with 13% who said they “might.” After hearing about his policies, however, the share of his backers over Trump who “definitely” would vote for him dropped to 71%, and “might vote” for him rose to 21%.
And while the Florida governor still has time to assuage his supporters — he hasn’t even declared to run for president as of yet — it’s certainly not ideal that his own policies are potentially pushing supporters away.
DeSantis’ signature achievements are unpopular amongst the masses
DeSantis, along with the Florida legislature, hasn’t shied away from unpopular policies in the past. While in office, the governor signed into law an abortion ban that limited abortions to the fifteen-week mark of pregnancy. He and the legislature are now pushing for an even stricter ban, one that limits doctors from performing the procedure after 6 weeks of gestation.
While Republican legislatures around the country — especially Florida’s — have pushed for restrictive abortion bans, they’ve been wildly unpopular to most Americans. A 2022 Pew Research poll survey found that more than 6-in-10 Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
DeSantis and the Florida legislature also enacted laws that have led to some classroom libraries shuttering and certain books being banned. According to a February survey from YouGov, however, there wasn’t a single book topic in the survey that a majority of Independents or Democrats thought should be restricted.
These unpopular policies have likely factored into DeSantis’ poor polling amongst potential Republican primary voters —he’s heavily lagging behind former President Donald Trump in polling on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. According to a Morning Consult survey from March 24-26, DeSantis only pulled in 26% support for the nomination while Trump received 52%.