More than three-quarters of Democratic primary voters say they are still interested in watching the Democratic primary debates, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. More than half (59%) say they will be watching the debates, which take place on Tuesday and Wednesday on CNN.
But the primary landscape somewhat different from the one that existed before the first set of debates in June. Democratic voters surveyed before the first debate said they were considering former Vice President Joe Biden (50%), who was followed closely by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (47%), who had already moved ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (38%).
Now, California Senator Kamala Harris has also moved ahead of Sanders as well, in part due to a strong June debate performance. One in four Democratic voters says performance in the debates will be very important in their vote choice.
Harris’s upward move—an eight-point bump that pushed her above Sanders—is the only real change from a month ago. The other candidates that draw more consideration among more than a fifth of Democratic voters (Biden, Warren, Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker) are at the same level of consideration they were a month ago.
Consideration of Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has nearly doubled. Castro was also seen as having a good debate performance in the first round, and he’s risen from 10% of voters considering him to 19% of voters considering him. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke, on the other hand, slipped nine points in the last month when voters are asked whom they are considering.
Biden is especially liked by African-American Democratic voters, two-thirds (68%) of whom say they are considering supporting him, according to this week’s poll. That’s far more than the percentage considering any of the African-American candidates: the number that is considering Harris is 27 points lower than Biden’s, and it’s 41 points fewer for Booker.
Among liberals, who make up 58 percent of Democratic primary voters, majorities are considering the two leading women contenders. Both Harris (53%) and Warren (60%) run ahead of Biden (46%) and Sanders (40%) with this group. In the last month, Harris and Castro have gained support with liberals—Harris increased from 39% to 53% and Castro increased from 9% to 21% among liberals.
Only 23 percent of Democratic voters are considering only one candidate. Most of those are considering only the two who have run before: Biden and Sanders. Warren polls at 12% among the few Democrats considering one candidate and Harris is at 2%. But that’s very different from those Democratic voters (nearly half of them – 45%) who are paying a lot of attention to the 2020 campaign. Among the most attentive voters, more (56%) are considering Warren than Biden (50%). Harris is being thought about by 51 percent, and more are thinking about Buttigieg (38%) than Sanders (34%).
Democrats are definitely looking for a nominee who can win. That’s especially true of those who are paying a lot of attention to the election campaign: 69 percent of the most attentive Democratic voters say they want a candidate who can win the general election as opposed to one whose policy positions they agree with.
Six in 10 of all Democratic voters agree.
The debates clearly can make a difference in voter perceptions, as indicated by the rise of Harris (and to a lesser extent Castro). Many Democratic voters aren’t looking for policy agreement as they are looking for a perception of electability.