Haley's support boosted by her appeal to independents, women


Donald Trump holds a commanding lead over Nikki Haley in Republicans’ preferences and in delegates going into the Super Tuesday contests. So what do we make of Nikki Haley winning a quarter and sometimes a third of the vote in these early primaries — and what should we make of it if she does so on Super Tuesday? 

Most Republicans aren’t ready to cross party lines come November: almost all self-identified Republicans nationwide — 96% — say they’d vote for Trump in a matchup with President Joe Biden. Instead, Haley’s support in primary contests so far has often come from independents and some Democrats who’ve come into the GOP primaries, but she fares more poorly among self-identified Republicans.

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However, it might mean there are some voters that the GOP could be leaving up for grabs if she’s not the nominee. Nikki Haley continues to hold an advantage over Donald Trump in a potential general election match-up with Joe Biden largely because she does better nationally with independents, moderates and women.

While Trump leads Biden in a national match-up by four points among likely voters nationally, this lead grows to nine points in a potential Biden-Haley contest.

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Unlike Trump, Haley leads Mr. Biden among women, runs evenly among moderates (Trump loses moderates to Biden), and she does even better than Trump among independents: Haley leads Mr. Biden among independents by two to one. 

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And right now, 13% of voters who would choose Haley in a Biden-Haley match-up say they will vote for Mr. Biden in the likely event that his challenger is Donald Trump.

Who are these defectors? 

  • Few are Republicans. Six in 10 describe themselves as independents, and most are women. Most don’t hold college degrees. 
  • Most of them voted for Mr. Biden in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they like him: eight in 10 would be voting for Mr. Biden this time around in order to oppose Donald Trump.
  • They are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with a potential Biden-Trump matchup:  three in four call the match-up “depressing”, and nearly nine in 10 want other choices. Three- quarters would like to see a new, third political party to compete with the Democrats and Republicans. 
  • Most don’t think either Trump or Mr. Biden has the physical or mental health to be president.
  • They aren’t particularly pleased with Mr. Biden’s tenure in the White House, but they are even more negative when looking back at Trump’s term in office. While six in 10 view Biden’s presidency as only “fair,” three in four say Trump’s presidency was “poor.”
  • Most say the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is a very serious problem (though not a crisis), and most think Trump, not Biden, would decrease the number of migrants trying to cross. But eight in 10 think the overturning of Roe v. Wade was bad for the country, and that the Republican Party has gone too far in restricting abortion. Most put some of the blame on Donald Trump. 
  • After the economy, their top concern is the state of democracy. Most think the state of democracy is threatened. Nearly all think Donald Trump tried to stay in office illegally, and most think democracy and the rule of law will only be safe if Mr. Biden wins. They overwhelmingly think that Trump would not be fit to be president if convicted of any of the crimes for which he is currently facing charges.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to have a commanding hold on the Republican Party. Seven in 10 Republican registered voters say it is very important for Republicans to be loyal to Donald Trump, and nine in 10 say that Donald Trump has a vision for where he wants to lead the country that they agree with.

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This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,159 U.S. adult residents interviewed between February 28-March 1, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as past vote. The margin of error is ±2.8  points.

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