Assume this at your peril DeSantis – you could be in for a shock!

After months of hinting at a GOP primary run to challenge former President Trump for the presidency, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finally announced his campaign in a glitchy Twitter Spaces voice-stream with tech mogul and social commentator Elon Musk.  

While the announcement made news for its delayed start time and technical glitches, the choice to forgo a traditional announcement in favor of a voice stream on Twitter may not have been the best move, considering the bulk of DeSantis’ support comes from older GOP voters – not necessarily millennials who largely dominate Twitter. Hootsuite data from 2022 shows that the largest demographic on Twitter is twenty-five to thirty-four-year-olds – a group DeSantis struggles with in polls.

Another issue is optics, with an announcement made alongside tech billionaire Elon Musk creating an easy opening for DeSantis critics to portray the governor as being in big tech’s pocket and less a man of the people compared to Trump. 

Campaign missteps aside, it appears DeSantis will have an uphill battle if he is to seriously challenge former President Trump. The latest Real Clear politics average of national polls has Trump leading DeSantis by 32.6 percentage points nationwide at 53.9% to 21.3%. What is more, a new Emerson College survey released the day DeSantis made his announcement shows Trump up a full 42 points against DeSantis at 62% to 20%. The same survey found Trump beating Biden by 11 points in the Hawkeye state, 49% to 38%. 

Importantly, the Emerson College poll noted that a majority of Trump’s support comes from younger voters and those without a college degree, the opposite of where DeSantis draws his support from. 

Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, stated that, “The former president’s base continues to be voters under 35: 75% of whom support Trump, and voters without a college degree: 70% support Trump. DeSantis’s support is higher among voters with a postgraduate degree, with 29% support, still trailing Trump’s 37% with this group.” 

Indeed, there is a massive gap in the Emerson poll by age and education. Voters aged eighteen to thirty-four favor Trump over DeSantis by a whopping 62 percentage points. That lead drops to a 28-point lead among voters aged thirty-five to forty-nine years old. Among voters aged fifty to sixty-four, Trump earns a 33-point lead over DeSantis, and among voters over 65, Trump’s lead increases again to 47 percentage points over DeSantis.    

There is a simplistic idea that younger voters want new blood in the GOP and may rally around DeSantis because he is forty-four years old, but this is a misguided idea that is not supported by polling data. 

Education is the other primary variable that splits Trump and DeSantis voters. Trump leads the Florida governor by 56 percentage points among voters with a high school education or less. His highest support continues to come from voters with some college education but no degree, where he leads DeSantis by a full 63 percentage points, and that drops to a lead of 24 points among college graduates. 

While the first primaries are still months away, assuming that younger voters will rally around DeSantis because he is thirty years younger than Trump would be misguided. 

Much like young people on the left favored the radical Bernie Sanders in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Primaries, young people on the right appear more taken with non-establishment contenders as well, regardless of their age. Trump has been incrementally increasing his support with younger voters since 2020, and these voters appear particularly loyal to the former president in recent polls. 

In addition, non-college voters continue to overwhelmingly support Trump, while a sliver of highly educated Gen X GOP voters appear to be DeSantis’ strongest supporters. 

Manzanita Miller is an associate analyst at Americans for Limited Government Foundation. 

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