When Vice President Mike Pence declined to help President Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021, he foreclosed whatever chance Trump had of staying in the White House — and probably any path Pence might have had of becoming president.
The reason? Pence split the Republican Party along MAGA lines. In a new CBS News/YouGov poll, non-MAGA Republicans say that Pence did the right thing, 48 percent to 15 percent, but MAGA Republicans disapprove by a 2-to-1 margin. And Monmouth University polling from last month showed that while even non-MAGA Republicans are iffy on Pence, “strong” MAGA Republicans detest him: Just 22 percent had a favorable impression, while 60 percent had an unfavorable one.
The MAGA split in the GOP is perhaps best exemplified by Pence’s travails, but that’s hardly the only area showing significant gaps.
Polling has occasionally asked Republicans whether they identify with the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement, and we reached out to pollsters to get breakdowns on how these two sides of the party differ. Below are some of the most interesting findings.
To start with, polls generally show that 4 to 5 in 10 Republican-leaning voters identify as MAGA. A Grinnell College poll late last year pegged the number at 42 percent. And the Monmouth poll last month showed that 31 percent identify as “strong” MAGA supporters, 21 percent identify as “somewhat” MAGA supporters, and 38 percent don’t support MAGA.
While Trump strikes few as the embodiment of the evangelical Christian faith, the MAGA movement is much more evangelical than not.
Strong MAGA supporters identify as evangelicals 60 percent to 39 percent in Monmouth polling, but those who lean Republican and don’t support the MAGA movement are nonevangelical by a similar margin, 59 percent to 36 percent.
MAGA is also more conservative. In the Monmouth poll, 6 in 10 “very conservative” voters identify at least somewhat with MAGA, while 60 percent of moderates identify as non-MAGA.
Suffolk University in a 2021 poll offered something of an analog: not whether voters described themselves as MAGA, but whether they were more loyal to Trump (akin to MAGA) or the GOP as a party (akin to non-MAGA). It found similar differences in these demographics, but relatively little differences across age, gender, region, income and education.
Not only are MAGA supporters more conservative, but the Grinnell College poll showed that 65 percent of them identify as “strong” Republicans, compared to just 36 percent of non-MAGA supporters.
That shouldn’t be mistaken for devotion to the party. The Suffolk poll showed Trump-first/MAGA supporters as less favorable toward the GOP (56 percent favorable to 29 percent unfavorable) than non-MAGA/party-first Republicans (70 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable).
The Trump-first/MAGA supporters also said, 74 percent to 8 percent, that they would back a Trump-run third party, while the party-first crowd said it would stick with the GOP in that scenario, 58 percent to 15 percent.
Trump-first/MAGA Republicans are more rigid in their views in the Suffolk poll.
They prefer that Republicans stand up to President Biden, even if it means getting little done, over compromising to accomplish things, 75 percent to 16 percent. Party-first/non-MAGA Republicans are more open to compromise, though they still prefer the former approach, 48-37.
Party-first and non-MAGA supporters are also slightly less disapproving of Biden (though all groups overwhelmingly disapprove). And non-MAGA Republicans are more willing to vote for Democrats, with AP VoteCast data showing that 10 percent crossed over in the 2022 House elections — a stat that cost the GOP dearly. (Just 2 percent of MAGA supporters voted for Democrats.)
This goes without saying; MAGA is Trump’s movement, after all. But the degree is often striking.
In the Monmouth poll, 61 percent of MAGA Republicans say they aren’t at all concerned about Trump’s indictments, compared to 39 percent of non-MAGA supporters.
The same poll shows non-MAGA supporters about evenly split on whether Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) would be a more effective president, but strong MAGA Republicans say that’s Trump, 70 percent to 9 percent.
The Suffolk poll also has 28 percent of party-first/non-MAGA Republicans saying that Trump was a “great president,” compared to 63 percent of Trump-first/MAGA supporters.
MAGA Republicans are, as befits their hero, more conspiratorial and extreme.
The Suffolk poll (conducted shortly after Jan. 6) showed 89 percent of Trump-first/MAGA Republicans said Biden wasn’t a legitimately elected president, compared to 59 percent of party-first/non-MAGA ones.
Just one-quarter said Jan. 6 was a “riot” or “insurrection” (it was both), compared to more than 4 in 10 party-first/non-MAGA Republicans.
At the time, Trump-first/MAGA Republicans were more likely to list either Newsmax or One America News as their most trusted news source (4 in 10) than to name Fox News (32 percent). Those outlets had gone even further than Fox to promote Trump’s stolen-election fantasy. Only 15 percent of party-first/non-MAGA Republicans preferred those outlets.
Trump-first/MAGA Republicans were also twice as likely as party-first/non-MAGA supporters to say they wouldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine.
And a recent poll from Vanderbilt University showed a particularly pronounced gap on the question of who was the better president, Biden or Russia’s Vladimir Putin. While 70 percent of non-MAGA Republicans said Biden was better, 52 percent of MAGA Republicans preferred Putin.
The splits in the ways MAGA Republicans and non-MAGA Republicans approach the 2024 election are perhaps unsurprising. But what’s interesting is how much even non-MAGA Republicans are falling in line behind Trump.
The Monmouth poll in March showed Trump underwater among non-MAGA Republicans, 39 percent favorable to 48 percent unfavorable. But that result has since flipped, with them now liking Trump 55 percent to 34 percent.
Over that span, Trump has turned a 33-19 deficit against DeSantis among non-MAGA Republicans in a crowded field into a slight 24-19 advantage.
A majority of non-MAGA Republicans now say Trump is probably the party’s strongest general election candidate, while only 29 percent saying DeSantis would be stronger.
Needless to say, if Trump is winning non-MAGA Republicans, he is going to win the nomination.
MAGA Republicans are, of course, willing to turn on a dime against anybody who runs afoul of Trump.
And it’s not just former Trump vice president Pence; it’s also the two most forceful Trump critics in the field. Strong MAGA Republicans absolutely despise former Trump ally Chris Christie (6 percent favorable, 70 percent unfavorable in the Monmouth poll), and the ones who know about former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson feel much the same about him (6 percent favorable to 28 percent unfavorable).
They also aren’t that enamored of former Trump United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, who briefly tried to turn on Trump after Jan. 6. While 37 percent like her, 27 percent dislike her.
This points to perhaps MAGA’s greatest impact: Making anyone who parts with Trump regret it, and keeping the party in line in the process.