‘It’s a two horse race for the Republican nomination’ – Jeff Hunt, Western Conservative Summit co-chair
LAKEWOOD, Col. — Former President Donald J. Trump, after two years of narrowly losing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, took the top spot Saturday in this weekend’s annual Western Conservative Summit straw poll.
Just a day after being indicted on federal charges, Trump outpaced DeSantis 40.3% to 35.8% in the non-partisan straw poll. The other candidates trailed the front runners, the closest being Larry Elder with 7.7% and Sen. Tim Scott with 5.8%.
“It’s a two horse race for the Republican nomination for president,” said Jeff Hunt, co-chair of the Western Conservative Summit. “The results are clear — Western grassroots conservatives want a fighter who will take on the radical Left and the institutions that are destroying America’s founding principles.”
The Western Conservative Summit is hosted by the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University’s public policy think tank, and is one of the largest annual gatherings of conservatives in the western United States. This year, 1,500 Summit-goers convened at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, with thousands more streaming online through digital partners.
A second question was asked of voters using “Approval Voting,” a method which allows participants to cast multiple responses. Participants were asked to choose all the candidates they approve of for a particular office.
“Approval voting minimizes the dilemma of choosing between the candidate you really like and the candidate you think is most electable,” said Frank Atwood, an Approval Voting advocate.
Voters were given a choice among 21 potential candidates, all popular figures spanning the political spectrum. Consistent with approval voting results from the previous two Summits, DeSantis won 3% more approval than Trump.
The top five candidates, in order of most approval to least, were:
- Ron DeSantis – 66.9%
- Donald Trump – 63.4%
- Larry Elder – 44.9%
- Sen. Tim Scott – 35.3%
- Vivek Ramaswamy – 24.2%
Notably, Democrat candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., polled 14.4% and President Biden less than 1%.
Voters’ Top Issues
Question three asked attendees to mark any of 24 policy issues as most important to them. The top ten most important issues were:
- Election Integrity – 73%
- Religious Freedom – 73%
- Education/Parental Rights – 72%
- Immigration/Border Security – 71%
- Gun Rights – 71%
- Federal Budget/Debt – 70%
- National Defense – 61%
- Crime – 60%
- Abortion – 54%
- China – 53%
Under the theme of “Western Strong,” the Summit demonstrated the importance of the great Western tradition — from the foundational principles of Western civilization to the rugged individualism that characterizes the American West. Speakers emphasized the importance of boldly advancing faith, family and freedom.
Speakers included conservative luminary Yoram Hazony, women’s rights advocate Riley Gaines, Republican candidates for president Larry Elder and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, former congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, Wyoming Representative Harriet Hageman, Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, bestselling author and nationally-syndicated radio host Eric Metaxas, Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon, PragerU personality CJ Pearson, among others. Attendees participated in dozens of unique workshops on various public policy and cultural subjects.
One of the largest annual gatherings of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C., the Western Conservative Summit focuses on the key issues facing the West and the nation, equips individuals to stand for faith, family, and freedom and trains up the next generation of conservatives.
Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute, is available for comment or interview on the straw poll results or this weekend’s Summit.
More information on the Centennial Institute is available here.
More information on the 2023 Western Conservative Summit is available here.