Most Democratic primary voters are pretty sure President Donald Trump will lose the 2020 presidential election, but they are dubious about the chances of most Democrats to beat him next November.
A majority of Democratic primary voters say only three Democratic candidates would probably defeat Trump: Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted after the second set of Democratic presidential debates.
Biden is seen as likely to win by the largest number of Democratic voters (64%), and more than half also see Sanders (49%) and Warren (51%) as likely winners in a battle against Trump. What is striking, however, is that about one in five (and in the case of Sanders, one in four) Democratic voters expect these frontrunners to lose against Trump.
California Senator Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg currently find more Democratic voters—but not a majority of them—thinking they would defeat Trump than thinking they will lose. Democratic voters say every other leading Democrat is more likely to lose to the president than to beat him.
When this question was posed to all adults, no Democratic candidate was viewed as more likely to defeat the president than to be defeated by him.
But in principle, Americans see Trump as beatable. Nearly half (47%) of the overall public (and 57 percent of Democratic primary voters) say that the president is likely to lose his re-election attempt. Nearly four in 10 (38%) of all adults (and less than a third of Democratic voters) believe that’s not likely to happen. But Americans have yet to agree that specific Democratic candidates can beat him.
Warren once again is viewed at the winner of her debate last week, repeating her victory in June. Nearly three times as many Democratic voters who watched or read about the debate thought she did the best job (21%) than named Sanders (9%), her chief competitor.
Biden did much better this time in his debate than he did in the first round. More voters said he won that debate (15%) than named Harris (8%), who was seen as the winner against Biden in June, or New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (8%).
One in four Democratic voters said there was no winner in last week’s Biden-Harris-Booker debate; only 7 percent thought no one won the other debate.
Democratic voters – 71 percent of them – continue to look forward to future debates. In September, with stricter rules for inclusion, many candidates may not be able to participate. Two-thirds of voters believe debate performance will be important in how they decide how to vote in the 2020 primaries.
As of now, 30 percent of Democratic primary voters, the highest percentage so far, say they have settled and are only considering one candidate. Biden has always been the leader with this group and still is. But this group tends to be paying less attention to the election than other Democratic primary voters.
Among all Democratic voters, there are several tiers. Biden (48%) and Warren (44%) are at the top followed by Harris (34%) and Sanders (34%), with Buttigieg (30%) slightly behind them. The most attentive Democratic voters are more likely to be considering Warren than Biden, and more likely to be considering Harris and Buttigieg than Sanders.
Andrew Yang is the only other candidate being considered by as many as 10% of Democratic primary voters.
Warren is ahead with liberals, and with those paying a lot of attention; Biden does best with older voters and with African-Americans. However, Biden remains at the top with 22% when voters are asked their first choice. Warren is second at 16%, and Sanders third with 13%.
See the full toplines and tables results from this week's Economist/YouGov poll.