This story has been updated to include precise results to one decimal point, following release of the data by the poll's organizers on Monday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scored something of an upset this weekend by finishing slightly ahead of former President Donald Trump in the Western Conservative Summit’s straw poll for the 2024 presidential election, the poll's organizer said Saturday.
DeSantis led the vote with 74.1% to Trump's roughly 71.4% in the highly unscientific poll, which was conducted online using the approval voting method.
The summit, in its 12th year, is sponsored by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and drew around 500 people on Friday and Saturday to a downtown Denver hotel, plus an audience numbering in the tens of thousands who watched online, organizers said.
Other possible Republican presidential contenders trailed, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nabbing 42.9% support, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finishing with 39.4%, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott at 35.6% and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton tied, with 29.9% each.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul got 27.8%, former first son Donald Trump Jr. got about 24.8% and former Vice President Mike Pence got 21.6%.
The approval voting method allows voters to pick multiple candidates, which "minimizes spoilers and sabotage and gives viability and visibility to minor candidates," according to Frank Attwood, who conducted the poll and runs Approval Voting USA, an organization that promotes its use. Because voters could make any number of choices, the percentages add up to more than 100.
All the top finishers were Republicans. The straw poll, which listed 30 candidates, included almost as many Democrats as it did Republicans — from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and former first lady Michelle Obama. None of the Democrats finished above 3%.
A handful of Republicans who are considered potential future presidential candidates didn't finish in the top 10, including Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
The summit, billed as the largest gathering of conservatives outside Washington, D.C., has conducted straw polls for president, vice president and Colorado governor years since 2010.
Though it might have pegged the favorites of its right-leaning crowd, the polls have done a poor job of predicting eventual GOP nominees or general election winners. Restauranteur Herman Cain won the first presidential poll in 2011, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012 and Cruz in 2013.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson topped the poll in 2014 and 2015, while in 2016 summit attendees thought Trump should tap former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate, and former district attorney George Brauchler was the runaway favorite for Colorado governor in 2017.