Millionaires favor DeSantis in Republican presidential primary, but support for Trump grows

Presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd in Gilbert, South Carolina, June 2, 2023.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the favorite Republican candidate among millionaires, although their support for former President Donald Trump is growing, according to the CNBC Millionaire Survey.

Only 32% of millionaire Republicans now support DeSantis as the GOP nominee, according to the survey, which polls individuals with $1 million or more in investible assets. That marks a large drop from the 54% who backed DeSantis at the end of 2022, according to the surveys.

At the same time, more respondents are getting behind former President Donald Trump. He has the support of 28% of Republican millionaires, narrowly trailing DeSantis. The share of Republican millionaires backing Trump jumped from 17% at the end of 2022.

DeSantis fares better among millionaire independent voters than Trump does, as 20% favor DeSantis and 7% back Trump.

Yet, millionaires expect Trump to win the GOP primary in 2024. When asked who they think will be the Republican presidential nominee, 49% said Trump, compared to 28% who said DeSantis.

Millionaires don’t always accurately predict elections, of course. They supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race before Trump beat her and backed Trump in 2019 surveys before President Joe Biden defeated him, according to CNBC Millionaire Surveys.

Still, the large drop in support for DeSantis and growing enthusiasm for Trump could show shifting winds among the donor class. DeSantis’ battle with Disney and other policies has already caused some of his biggest billionaire backers, including digital-trading billionaire Thomas Peterffy, to pause their giving.

In a head-to-head race between Biden and Trump, millionaires still favor Biden by a slim margin. About 55% of millionaires would support Biden in a 2020 rematch, while 45% would favor Trump. Meanwhile, 84% of Republican millionaires would vote for Trump in a Biden-Trump election.

With the election still more than a year away, other Republican candidates could gain ground. Former Vice President Mike Pence has 10% of Republican millionaires’ support, up slightly from 8% in 2022. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also is the favorite among 10% of survey respondents, up from 6% in 2022.

On the Democratic side, 65% of Democratic millionaires said they support Biden. The Democratic runner-up is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not announced a run for president but gets 13% of support. Vice President Kamala Harris gets 4% of Democratic millionaires’ support, while Hillary Clinton gets 7%.

CNBC’s Millionaire Survey was conducted online in April. A total of 764 respondents, with $1 million or more of investable assets, qualified for the survey. Respondents had to be the financial decision-maker or share jointly in financial decision-making within the household. The survey is conducted twice per year, in the spring and the fall.

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