A majority of Republicans are more interested in picking a 2024 presidential nominee who is simpatico with their viewpoints than someone who has a strong chance of beating President Biden, according to a poll released Tuesday. 

The CNN/SSRS survey of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents shows that 59% think it’s more important that the party nominate a candidate who shares their positions on major issues, while 41% think it’s more important that the party pick a candidate who can topple Biden. 

That contrasts with what Democrats were thinking in March 2020, when 65% told the same poll it was more important that the party nominate someone who could beat then-President Donald Trump while just 29% said it was more important that the Democratic nominee stake out the same positions as they on the issues. The 65% got their wish, as Biden, 80, won the nomination and defeated Trump, now 76, in the general election.

Former President Donald Trump, shown campaigning in Pennsylvania during the 2016 election, has a 40% to 36% advantage over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
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A substantial majority of Republicans — 87% — believe it is “essential” that the candidate demonstrates the mental sharpness and physical stamina required to serve as president, while 58% believe the party’s standard-bearer should pledge to keep Social Security and Medicare intact. 

Smaller numbers think it’s “essential” that the nominee represents the future of the party (57%), back government action to oppose “woke” values (54%), attract support from outside the party (54%), and restore Trump administration policies (43%).

Another 44% say it is “important, but not essential” that the candidate believe that the US should not get involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine, while 36% view that position as “essential” for the nominee to hold. 

The poll shows Trump narrowly leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (40% to 36%) among national Republicans, while no other potential GOP contender cracks double digits.

Gov. Ron DeSantis greeting supporters in Florida on March 8.
Gov. Ron DeSantis greets supporters in Florida on March 8.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence come in at 6%, while Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu each garner 2%. 

Following them at 1% each are former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

While Trump tops DeSantis in the poll, the governor holds an edge when voters’ second choices are taken into account, with 65% saying DeSantis is one of their top two picks to be the GOP standard-bearer in 2024 — while 59% say Trump is one of their top two.

Again, the other would-be GOP candidates lag way behind, with just 22% saying Pence is one of their top two choices and 15% saying the same of Haley.

A poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents show they prefer a 2024 nominee who shares their views more than someone who has the ability to defeat President Biden.
A poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents shows they prefer a 2024 nominee who shares their views more than someone who has the ability to defeat President Biden.

In addition, 28% of respondents say they would be “upset” or “dissatisfied” if Trump were the 2024 GOP nominee, while 49% say the same of Pence, 26% say the same of Pompeo, 24% say the same of Haley and just 12% say the same of DeSantis.

Overall, 58% of the respondents say Trump has had a good effect on the Republican Party, down nine percentage points from the same poll two years ago.  

The survey also shows that 70% believe all Republican candidates should pledge to support the nominee regardless of who it is — a position that Trump said he won’t get behind. 

Republicans and Republican-leaners also shared a dire outlook for the future, with 70% saying America’s best days are in the past and only 30% saying they are ahead. 

That’s a marked difference from September 2019, when Trump was in the White House and 77% were optimistic about the future.

More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) also believe that society’s values on gender identity and sexual orientation are changing for the worse, while 9% say they are getting better. 

The percentage of Republicans and GOP leaners who think having a population made up of different races and ethnic groups enriches American culture has fallen from 71% in September 2019 to 61% now, while 38% view a diverse population as threatening, compared to 20% three and a half years ago.

The CNN/SSRS poll surveyed 1,045 Republicans or Republican-leaning independents between March 8 and 12.

It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.