Hunter Biden Legal Issues Offsetting Trump Indictments for Independents

A new Emerson College Polling survey of U.S. voters following the August Republican Primary debate finds half of Republican Primary voters (50%) plan to vote for Donald Trump, the lowest support to date for the former President in Emerson national polls. Trump’s support has dropped by six percentage points since last week’s pre-debate national poll

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is at 12%, a 2 percentage point increase from last week. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy follows with 9%, a one-point drop from the pre-debate poll. Former Vice President Mike Pence received 7% of voter support, a 4-point increase from the pre-debate poll. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley saw the largest increase in support among Republican candidates, jumping 5 points from 2% to 7%./

 “While Trump saw a slight dip in support, the question from this poll is whether this is a blip for Trump or if the other Republican candidates will be able to rally enough support to be competitive for the caucus and primary season,” Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling said. 

“Different candidates have been able to pull varying demographic support from the Trump base, for example Mike Pence who saw an overall four-point bump in voter support was able to increase his support in the Midwest from 4% to 13% of the vote, while Trump saw his Midwest support drop from 54% to 42% after the debate,” Kimball said. “Nikki Haley’s support increased from about 2% to 9% among voters over 50 while Trump’s support dropped within this age group from about 56% to 49% after the debate.”

Overall, 57% of Republican Primary voters say they will definitely vote for the candidate they selected, a five point decrease from last week. Forty-three percent say there is a chance they could change their mind and vote for someone else. 

“There appears to be a softening of support for Trump since last week’s survey, where 82% of Trump voters said they would definitely support him, compared to 71% after the debate. DeSantis’s support also softened from 32% who would definitely support to 25%, while Ramaswamy support remained consistent from 47% to 45%,” Kimball said. 

Debate Reaction: Plurality of Republican Primary Voters Think Ramaswamy Won Debate But Plurality Would Vote for DeSantis 

A plurality of Republican Primary voters, 27%, think Ramaswamy won the debate, while 21% think DeSantis won, 12% think Pence won, and 11% think Haley won. Twenty-two percent of Republican Primary voters think no candidate won the debate.

  • A plurality (31%) of voters who have heard, seen, or read about the Republican Presidential debate think none of the candidates won. Eighteen percent think Vivek Ramaswamy won the debate, followed by Ron DeSantis at 16%, Nikki Haley at 14%, Mike Pence at 11%, and Chris Christie at 6%. 

When asked who lost the debate, overall 27% think no candidate lost the debate, 22% think Ron DeSantis lost the debate, 14% think Chris Christie lost, 11% think Mike Pence lost, 8% think Vivek Ramaswamy lost, 6% Hutchinson, 5% Haley, 5% Burgum, and 3% Scott. 

  • A plurality of Republican Primary voters (22%) think Christie lost the debate, 16% think DeSantis lost, 14% Pence, 7% Hutchinson, 6% Burgum, 6% Ramaswamy, 5% Haley, and 4% Scott. Twenty-one percent think no candidate lost the debate. 

When presented with a Republican Primary ballot test with only the debate stage candidates, 30% of voters would support DeSantis, followed by Ramaswamy at 25%, Pence at 16%, and Haley at 12%. Christie (8%), Scott (5%), Hutchinson (3%) and Burgum (3%) round out the field.

Kimball notes, “When Trump is removed from the GOP ballot test, his voters split between DeSantis at 32% and Ramaswamy at 29%, with Pence at 16% — which suggests if Trump was to not run, a race between DeSantis and Ramaswamy could take shape.”

A plurality of voters (48%) say Trump not participating in the Republican Primary debate makes no difference on their decision whether or not to support Trump for president in 2024, while 30% say it makes them less likely, and 22% more likely. 

  • Among Republican Primary voters, 38% are more likely to vote for Trump because of his decision to skip, 20% are less likely, and 42% say it has no impact on their vote. 

Of those who have heard, seen, or read a lot or a little about Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson on the same evening as the debate, 46% say they are less likely to support Trump based on this interview, while 33% say they are more likely; 21% say it has made no impact on their vote. 

Democratic Nomination: Voters Disapprove of Biden Administration’s Response to Maui

In the 2024 presidential Democratic primary, a majority of voters (61%) support Joe Biden for president, an eight-point decrease from last week’s pre-debate poll. Twelve percent of voters support Robert Kennedy Jr., a three-point jump, while Marianne Williamson maintained 4% of voter support. Twenty-three percent of voters are undecided. 

President Biden’s approval remains essentially unchanged from last week’s national survey at 43%, up slightly from last week’s 42%. The president’s disapproval rating remains at 47%. Regarding the Biden administration’s response to the wildfires in Maui, 32% approve of the administration response, while 46% disapprove of its response. 

2024 General Election: Third-Party Candidacy Hurts Biden

In a hypothetical matchup between Trump and Biden, 46% would vote for Trump and 44% Biden. Ten percent are undecided. With Green Party candidate Cornel West added to the ballot test, 44% support Trump, 39% Biden, 4% West, and 13% are undecided. 

“Despite losing ground in the Republican Primary, support for Donald Trump in a hypothetical matchup against Joe Biden increased two points since last week’s poll,” Kimball said. “Cornel West continues to draw support from 7% of independents, 8% from Black voters, and 7% from Hispanics, key demographics that drove Biden’s 2020 victory.”

Regardless of which candidate voters support, 39% expect Biden to be president after the 2024 election, while 37% expect Donald Trump to be president. A quarter of voters (25%) expect someone else to be president. 

Overall, 47% of voters say the four indictments of Donald Trump makes them less likely to vote for him for president in 2024, while 36% say it makes them more likely to vote for the former president. Seventeen percent are unsure or have no opinion. Regarding Hunter Biden tax and felony gun charges, 46% say it makes them less likely to vote for Biden for president in 2024, while 23% say it makes them more likely to vote for him, and 31% are unsure or have no opinion. 

  • Among independent voters, 46% are less likely to vote for Trump because of his indictments (25% more likely), and 43% are less likely to vote for Biden because of his son’s charges (16% more likely) .
  • A majority of Republicans (60%) are more likely to support Trump because of his indictments with 22% less likely, while Democrats are more split on Hunter’s charges: 37% are more likely and 27% are less likely to support Biden’s re-election with 36% unsure or have no opinion.

In the 2024 Congressional Elections, 43% of voters plan to support the Republican candidate on the ballot, while 42% support the Democratic candidate. Fifteen percent are undecided. 

Voters were asked if they think there should be a federal ban on abortion, or if this should be left to the individual states to decide. A majority (70%) think this should be left to individual states to decide, while 17% think there should be a federal ban, and 13% are unsure. 

  • Independents are most opposed to a federal ban on abortion with 7% support compared with 17% support for Democrats and 25% support for Republicans.


The Emerson College Polling national survey was conducted August 25-26, 2023. The sample of registered voters, n=1,000, has a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE), of +/- 3 percentage points.  The data sets were weighted by gender, education, race, age, party affiliation, and region based on 2024 registration modeling. Turnout modeling is based on US Census parameters, and US voter registration data. 

It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and understand with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.

Data was collected by contacting an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines and an online panel of voters.

All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results, demographics, and cross tabulations can be found under “Full Results.” This survey was funded by Emerson College.