Nearly half of Trump voters would leave GOP, support Trump-backed third party: survey

Former President Donald J. Trump
Former President Donald J. Trump | White House /Tia Dufour

A new poll has found that a plurality of Republicans would abandon the GOP and join a third party backed by former President Donald Trump if he decided to create one.

A survey of 1,000 Trump voters conducted last week by Suffolk University and USA Today revealed that the former president, who received more votes than any Republican presidential nominee in U.S. history in the 2020 presidential election, remains popular among the people who supported him. When asked if they would support a hypothetical third party created by Trump over the Republican Party, 46% answered in the affirmative.

By contrast, 27% of those surveyed said they would not abandon the GOP in favor of the hypothetical Trump-backed third party. Brandon Keidl, a 27-year-old Trump supporter from the key battleground state of Wisconsin, fell into the former group, explaining that “Republicans don’t fight enough for us and we all see Donald Trump fighting for us as hard as he can, every single day.”

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Keidl slammed establishment Republicans, arguing that they “just agree with establishment Democrats and everything, and they don’t ever push back.”

Fifty-four percent of respondents expressed stronger loyalty to Trump than the Republican Party, while 34% said their loyalty rested with the GOP. While the prospect of a third party emerging is unlikely, the poll illustrates that Trump voters still want the former president to play a role in GOP politics going forward. This could spell trouble for the 10 House Republicans and seven Senate Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Trump for what they deemed as "inciting an insurrection" at the United States Capitol last month.

With more than a year left until the 2022 midterm elections, several of the House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president are already facing pushback. Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and David Valadao, R-Calif., have already attracted at least one primary challenger following their decisions to vote in favor of impeachment.

Eighty percent of Trump voters surveyed by Suffolk and USA Today said that they would be less likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supported the former president’s impeachment, while 6% said that a candidate’s support for impeachment would make them more likely to vote for that person.

In January, Rasmussen released the results of its national telephone and online survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters, which found that "53% of GOP voters say it’s a good idea for Trump to start a third party." However, it also found that 30% of Republicans said a third party "would be a bad idea, and 17% are not sure."

Trump is scheduled to make his first public address since his term ended on Jan. 20 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which is taking place in Florida this week. He is expected to address the future of the Republican Party at the annual gathering of grassroots conservative activists.

In addition to asking Trump supporters for their thoughts about a potential third party, the Suffolk and USA Today poll asked whether they thought the party should become “more loyal to Trump,” even if that means losing the support of establishment Republicans. Half of those surveyed said that the Republican Party should become more loyal to Trump, while 19% believed that the party should align itself with establishment Republicans.

Fifty-nine percent of Trump voters want him to run again in 2024, compared to 29% who do not. If he did run, he would receive the support of 76% of those who voted for him in the Republican primary. His support among his voters would increase to 85% support in the general election, according to the survey.

Most Trump voters surveyed (73%) believe that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected. Sixty-two percent think that congressional Republicans “should do their best to stand up to Biden on major policies, even if it means little gets passed,” while 26% said that congressional Republicans “should do their best to work with Biden on major policies, even if it means making compromises.”

When asked for their thoughts about impeachment, 4% of respondents said the impeachment trial made them less supportive of Trump, while 42% said it made them even more supportive of the former president. The remaining 54% said that Trump’s impeachment did not affect their support of him. More than 90% of respondents rejected the premise that Trump incited an insurrection at the Capitol.

While Democrats and critics of former President Trump have worked to tie Republicans and Trump supporters to the Q-Anon, most of the Trump supporters surveyed have either never heard of it (43%) or are undecided (21%). Just 4% of Trump voters expressed a favorable view of QAnon, while 31% said they had an unfavorable view of it.

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