(CNN) Former President Donald Trump has a mid-double-digit lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in national GOP primary polls in 2024. That in itself is not remarkable given that Trump, the favorite, is ahead of DeSantis (by far the -his close competitor or potential competitor) since the race studies began.
But what may surprise is how Trump is ahead. An average of CNN/SSRS and Quinnipiac University polls released this week revealed that Trump’s lead can be largely attributed to his clear advantage among potential Republican voters of color.
Trump is up an average of 55% to 26% over DeSantis among Republican (and Republican-leaning) voters of color in the average of the two polls.
Among white Republican voters, the race was within the margin of error: Trump’s 38 percent to DeSantis’ 37 percent.
I should note that the combined CNN/SSRS and Quinnipiac University sample size of voters of color is about 200 respondents. It’s not particularly large, but it’s more than large enough to say with a high degree of statistical confidence that Trump is ahead among them and that he’s doing better among them than among white Republicans.
The fact that Trump is doing significantly better among Republicans of color than white Republicans contradicts the fact that many Americans view Trump as a racist. I noted in 2019 that more Americans described Trump as racist than the percentage of Americans who said that about segregationist and presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968.
But Trump’s overrepresentation with Republicans of color makes sense in another way, too. The Republican primary race is breaking down along class lines, just as it did during the 2016 primary.
Trump’s base consists of Republicans whose households take in less than $50,000 a year. He led that group of voters by 22 points over DeSantis in our CNN poll. He trails DeSantis by 13 points among those GOP voters who earn at least $50,000 a year. That’s a difference of 35 points between these two income groups.
Republicans of color are much more likely than white Republicans to have a household income of less than $50,000 a year. According to the CNN poll, 45% of Republicans of color are voting compared to just 28% of white Republicans.
Trump’s lead among Republicans of color comes at a time when they are becoming a larger part of the party. During the 2016 Republican primary season, voters of color were 13% of Republicans. Today they are closer to 18%.
To put that in some perspective, white college-educated voters make up about 28% of potential Republican primary voters. Trump, of course, has historically struggled among well-educated white voters, even within his own party.
Although voters of color do not make up nearly the same share of the GOP as college-educated white voters, the gap is not that great. That means if Trump ends up doing as well with Republicans of color as the current poll shows, it would be a nice counterbalance to his weakness among college-educated white voters.
Trump is doing better among Republicans of color now, having improved dramatically among all voters of color in the 2020 general election. Although he still lost among them in 2020 by 45 points to Joe Biden, data from exit polls, that was less than his 53-point loss in the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton. (Other data shows a similar improvement for Trump.)
Trump’s improvement among voters of color occurred even as his margin among white voters narrowed between 2020 and 2016. In fact, Trump likely would have won the 2020 election if there had been a slightly smaller swing among white voters between 2016 .and 2020
Indeed, the Republican Party as a whole is improving among voters of color. The party’s 38-point loss among that bloc for the House in the 2022 midterm elections is a 5-point improvement over 2020. Its margin among white voters remains the same, according to exit polls.
Put another way: the shift among voters of color from 2022 to 2020 could have provided a winning margin for Republicans to take back the House.
The question in 2024 is whether voters of color will continue their shift to the Republican Party and Trump in particular. If they do, they could give both of them a big boost.