The wide-ranging Roanoke College poll released this week includes a noticeable drop in support among Virginia Republicans for Ron DeSantis as a first choice for party presidential nominee — but he holds the top preference in a different way, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports:

CLICK HERE for full poll results and methodology.

EXCERPT: The Roanoke College Poll continued measuring Virginians’ opinions about the current Republican presidential nomination race, including who they would most prefer to be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. We provided survey respondents an updated field of candidates based on recent national polling, including Trump, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott. Although he has not entered the race, we also included Youngkin in the list of candidates again.

Trump maintains a commanding lead of 47% as the first choice among self-reported Virginia Republicans, followed by DeSantis at 13% and the rest of the candidates in single digits. While Trump’s level of support remains about the same as our last poll, the percentage of Republicans reporting DeSantis as their first choice has dropped by 15% since our last poll in May. We also asked Virginians to report their second-choice candidate for the Republican nomination, where the results showed a more competitive field. Approximately 19% of Republicans reported DeSantis as their second choice, followed by Trump (17%), Ramaswamy (17%), Youngkin (14%), Scott (9%), Pence (8%) and Haley (6%).

Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, we asked Virginians who they would vote for in a hypothetical matchup between the two parties’ leading nominees. Biden leads Trump by about nine points at 51% to 42%, which is a drop from his 16-point lead we reported in our May poll. Looking at a breakdown by party identification, while both Biden and Trump have solidified support among Democrats and Republicans, respectively, our poll finds that Biden has a 21-point advantage among independents at 55% to 34%. We also asked Virginians, if Biden and Trump are the party nominees in 2024, whether they would consider voting for an independent candidate for president in 2024. Approximately 47% of Virginians said they would consider an independent candidate while 50% said they would not. Looking at the results by party identification, 54% of independents said they would consider voting for an independent presidential candidate.