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Will 2016 Trump voters return to him if he runs for president again?

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Former President Donald Trump gestures to the audience after speaking at an America First Policy Institute agenda summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Donald Trump says he has made up his mind about whether to run for president again in 2024.

While he hasn’t made an announcement yet, many Utahns who voted for him in 2016 would mark the ballot for him again because of the policies he advanced in his one term in the White House and despite his nonstop claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll ascertained Utah voters’ thoughts on whether Trump fulfilled his campaign promises and what policies and actions they approved or disapproved of during his presidency.

Based on those responses, the survey sought to find out if those voters would go back to Trump if he were to run in 2024. While nearly eight in 10 previous Trump voters in Utah would support the former president, the poll results appear to leave room for other potential GOP presidential candidates to make inroads.

“Given the questions that were asked, the evidence from the survey indicates that while Trump is still likely to be the prohibitive favorite among Utah Republicans, meaningful numbers of former Trump voters may be ready to give other candidates a chance,” said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.

“It’s still very early in the process, with plenty of time for Trump to consolidate his support, but the results suggest to me that at least some former Trump voters are open to other alternatives.”

Supporters of former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley may see glimmers of hope in the survey results, he said.

The poll of 801 Utah registered voters found 42% of respondents say they voted for Trump in 2016, 26% for Hillary Clinton, 16% for Evan McMullin and 16% for someone else. Those results roughly track with the actual election results — Trump, 45.5%; Clinton, 27.5%; and McMullin, 21.5% — though the McMullin numbers may be understated and “other” may be overstated.


It’s still very early in the process, with plenty of time for Trump to consolidate his support, but the results suggest to me that at least some former Trump voters are open to other alternatives.

–Chris Karpowitz, BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy


Of those who voted for Trump (totaling 334 survey respondents), 91% say he fulfilled the campaign promises that were most important to them. Topping the list of policies or actions they most approved of over his four years in the White House were his economic policies at 49%, with immigration policies (17%) and Supreme Court nominations (11%) a distant second and third, respectively.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll for the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics from July 13-18. The overall survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points. The survey of the 334 Trump voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

Utahns who supported and voted for President Trump did so for very specific policy reasons, said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

“They liked his economic plan, position on immigration and promise to nominate a conservative Supreme Court justice. On those top three policies, his supporters believe he delivered and the vast majority said they would vote for him again,” he said.

Given the pandemic-related economic troubles at the end of Trump’s term, it’s interesting that so many voters highlighted economic success, Karpowitz said.

“Arguably President Trump’s biggest accomplishment was the large 2017 tax cut, so perhaps that is what voters had in mind,” he said.

As recent Supreme Court decisions have shown, perhaps his longest-lasting legacy will be the three justices he nominated to the court, so it is interesting that so few 2016 Trump voters cited those, Karpowitz said. He also noted that Trump-era immigration policies were controversial, including both the border wall and separating families.

Asked what policies or actions they most disapproved of, 32% pointed to Trump’s statements about the 2020 election. But 32% also indicated that they didn’t disapprove of any of his actions or policies over his term.

Photo: Deseret News

Karpowitz said one of the poll’s most interesting findings is that nearly a third of Trump voters took issue with actions and statements regarding the 2020 election. He said that suggests the possibility that Trump’s continued fixation on election fraud has a downside for him.

“Even some of his former supporters may be growing weary of his claims, not backed by any credible evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen. The divide between his rhetoric and the facts on the ground has been made especially stark by the Jan. 6 committee, though it is unclear what percentage of Trump voters are paying close attention to those hearings,” Karpowitz said.

Still, he said, the survey results may indicate that evidence Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and others on the committee put forward is having an effect on public opinion, including among some Republican voters. A recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll found nearly half of Utahns believe Trump should face criminal charges for his role in the Capitol attack.

Finally, Trump voters in the poll were asked, in weighing his policies and actions and what they approved and disapproved of during his administration, whether they’d vote for him again.

A whopping 78% say they would cast their ballot for Trump, while only 19% would not and 3% don’t know.

Karpowitz said that big number is “actually more ominous for Trump than it might appear at first glance and could indicate an opening for other Republican candidates in the future.”

While more than three-fourths of Trump’s 2016 Utah voters would choose him again, that number is actually somewhat lower than might be expected for a previous president.

As a point of comparison, Karpowitz said, national surveys during the Trump presidency routinely indicated support from more than 90% of Republicans. And the poll reflects 78% of the 42% who said they voted for him in 2016.

That translates into solid repeat support from about one-third of 2016 Utah voters overall, he said. He added it would be helpful to know whether Republicans who chose McMullin would vote for Trump in 2024 because some McMullin voters ended up choosing Trump in 2020.

“So I’m not trying to argue that Trump is only supported by one-third of Utah voters,” Karpowitz said. “It’s likely to be higher than that — but perhaps short of a majority at this point in the election cycle.”

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll in December 2021 found 24% of Utahns would vote for Trump in 2024 and 26% would consider voting for him again. Among those in that survey who identified themselves as Republicans, 39% would vote for Trump, while 34% would consider voting for him.

Photo: Deseret News

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Dennis Romboy

Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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