After Donald Trump skipped the first GOP primary debate, he dropped in popularity by six points, according to a national Emerson poll conducted Aug.25–26. Although 50% of Republican voters polled said they still planned to vote for the four-time indicted former game show host (as opposed to 56% before the debate), his recent drop is "the lowest support to date" in the history of Emerson polls.
Meanwhile, Nikki Haley made the biggest jump — from 2% before the debate to 7% afterwards — with a 5% increase in support. In comparison, Mike Pence saw an increase in support of 4%, while Trump template Vivek Ramaswamy dropped by one point. Interestingly, "Candidates willing to go after Trump last night (Haley, Christie, Pence) didn't get punished," said political scientist Meredith Conroy, via The Washington Post. (Although Christie was considered the worst debater of the night.)
Although it's just one poll and Trump is still far ahead of the ravening pack, one of the takeaways from the latest Emerson numbers is that perhaps hiding from a debate isn't the best strategy. And another takeaway is that perhaps collecting indictments isn't advantageous after all, as many have speculated, especially in light of Emerson's finding that "47% of voters say the four indictments of Donald Trump makes them less likely to vote for him."
It's true that no candidate has held as large a polling lead as Trump has and failed to win the nomination. But that's a less impressive statistic than it seems.
For one thing, there aren't that many cases of big early leads for open nominations — excluding incumbents running for reelection— during the 50 years of the open nomination system.
We can also be sure that at least some of Trump's large lead is air that he'll lose once voters get to know other candidates. There's plenty of history of the best-known candidate doing especially well in early polling and then losing some or all of that lead once voters start paying attention in the days and weeks before they actually go to the polls.
The key thing to know about voters and nomination politics, however, is what Nate Silver said. "Most primary voters like multiple candidates, and that makes multi-candidate primaries intrinsically volatile."
As for Donald's Trump's strongest (so far) but sinking competitor Ron DeSantis, although the Florida governor didn't gain much support after the first debate (2%), he did come in second place as the biggest loser of the night, with 16% of those polled saying he lost the debate. He was beat in this category only by Chris Christie, with 22% who thought the former New Jersey governor was the worst.