Voters describe Kamala Harris as smart and tough

June 05, 2019, 8:00 PM GMT+0

The Iowa Caucuses are seven months away and most Democratic voters have not yet have settled on their preferred candidate for the party’s presidential nomination. Only 25% say they are considering just one candidate. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, former Vice President Joe Biden is the leader among those with one choice, but he also leads with those considering many options.

In fact, more than half of all Democratic primary voters — no matter the number of candidates they are thinking about supporting — say they are considering Biden, which is up from 45% last week.

Behind him in total consideration are three Senators, each with four in 10 voters thinking about them: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and California Senator Kamala Harris. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg isn’t that far behind the top four.

As voters expand their list of possible choices, other candidates come closer to Biden.

Sanders fares especially well among voters thinking about two or three candidates (27% of all Democratic primary voters).

Diving deeper into the data reveals some interesting demographic splits.

Female candidates aren’t scoring particularly high with women. Far more women say they are considering Biden than are considering any of the women in the race.

Among senior citizens, Biden and Harris are the top two candidates this week.

Among African-Americans, the former Vice President is the most popular. But one in three black voters named Harris as a consideration, the same proportion as Warren. Just one in four African-Americans are considering New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, another black candidate, and only 10% of African-Americans are currently considering Sanders.

Liberal Democratic primary voters (the majority of Democratic voters) are looking at four candidates: Warren, Biden, Harris, and Sanders (with many also considering Buttigieg). Younger liberal voters favor Sanders, while among older liberal Democratic voters, more are considering Buttigieg than are considering Sanders.

Senator Harris is slightly less well-known than Warren, the other leading female candidate. But both women get high marks from Democrats, though they receive mixed evaluations from the public overall. The evaluations of Biden and Sanders, who are better known, are similar.

Just under half of Democrats call Harris a liberal. Slightly more said that about Warren a week ago. But only 8% of Democrats say Harris is “too liberal.” 12% thought that about Warren. Twice as many (13%) want Harris to be more liberal than said this about Warren last week. Among the entire population, about one in three believe each senator is too liberal.

Still, Democrats like both of them. The two women are equally matched on leadership and caring about voters. But significant numbers of Democrats can’t make a judgment when it comes to presidential qualities. A third of Democrats can’t answer a question about whether they are confident in Harris’s ability to handle an international crisis; last week, a quarter were unsure about Warren’s capacity in foreign policy.

Neither yet has established themselves in Democratic minds as a likely primary or general election winner. Only 35% of Democratic voters believe Harris is likely to win the nomination.

When Democratic primary voters are asked for one word about Harris, a variety of qualities are mentioned: intelligence and toughness for two. Hardly any Democratic voters mention her gender (the same was true last week when Democratic voters were asked about Elizabeth Warren, who was also seen as intelligent and strong). For Harris, “unknown” was also mentioned.