Warren and Biden lead ahead of September debate

September 05, 2019, 4:00 PM GMT+0

A handful of the Democratic presidential candidates set to appear on the debate stage next week are the same ones primary voters are thinking about supporting. Just a few like could be considered top choices, however, and those names are likely to continue to be at the top when the debate is over.

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden as the most popular of the 10 debate-bound candidates, and those two outpace the rest of the field.

Warren and Biden are followed (not at all closely) by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. California Senator Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are farther behind. The rest of the candidates in next week’s debate trail that top five; one, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, is the first choice of hardly any Democratic primary voters, and less than one in 10 are even considering her.

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Biden continues to lead as the voters first choice, and is propelled by strong support from blacks and older voters. Almost half (46%) of black Democratic primary voters choose Biden, as do 53 percent of voters 65 and older. The youngest Democratic voters, those under the age of 30, divide closely between Warren and Sanders, with Biden third. Only 19 percent of liberal Democratic voters – a majority of the party – say Biden is their first choice, while 29 percent choose Warren and 17 percent Sanders.

Warren remains the best-liked Democratic candidate by potential voters. Three quarters (75%) of them have a favorable opinion of her, while just 15 percent are unfavorable. Sanders is second: 72 percent have a favorable view of him. Biden draws a 65 percent view and, 62 percent are favorable toward Harris. But more express unfavorable opinions of these three candidates than say they don’t like Warren.

Another indication of Warren’s general popularity is that she is the only candidate a majority of Democratic primary voters say they are “considering” -- at the moment, most Democrats are considering three or fewer names. In addition, only 9 percent of Democratic voters say they would be “disappointed” if Warren became the nominee, the smallest percentage of all the candidates. Nearly a quarter (22%) say they would be disappointed if Biden were chosen, though even more (30%) would be disappointed if the nomination went to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Though it may seem that the campaign has already lasted years, it is still 14 months before the 2020 general election. Just 48 percent of Democratic primary voters currently are paying a lot of attention. About a quarter are paying little or no attention, and it is this group that gives Biden his lead as Democratic voters’ first choice. Warren and Biden run neck and neck among voters paying a lot of attention, but three times as many of those paying little or no attention favor Biden as support Warren.

Two-thirds of the most attentive ae considering Warren. That is 19 percent more than the percentage of the most attentive voters considering Biden.

The most attentive Democratic voters are the best-educated. Nearly six in 10 of those with a college degree say they are paying a lot of attention; only a third of those without a high school diploma say this. Democratic men are also more attentive: 57 percent of them claim to be paying a lot of attention, while just 41 percent of women say this. Presumably, attentiveness will rise as the primaries and caucuses draw closer.

Democratic voters are definitely looking for someone who can win next November. So far, few of those on next week’s debate stage have passed the electability threshold, and they are currently the leading Democratic contenders.

Most of those who are considering each candidate are taking electability into consideration, and believe their choices can beat President Donald Trump. [Andrew Yang was not included in this week’s list of candidates on the question of electability.]

However, nearly all Democratic voters will get behind whomever is the nominee: 86 percent say they will support an unnamed Democratic candidate. At the moment, only 6 percent of Democratic voters say they would vote to re-elect the president. Currently, 6 percent of Republicans say they will vote for the Democrat running against the GOP President.

See the full toplines and tables results from this week's Economist/YouGov poll.

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Image: Getty