Former Vice President Joe Biden took a clear lead nationally as the choice of Democratic primary voters in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, which was conducted December 1 - 3.
The results preceded a number of highs and lows for the Biden campaign this week, including an encounter where he called a voter who accused him of selling access to President Barack Obama, “a damn liar.” Following the latest poll, the campaign also released a video with more than 11 million views on Twitter that showed world leaders laughing at President Donald Trump.
Biden had been trailing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for weeks. But Warren’s lead disappeared last week after the fifth Democratic debate—the first debate where she was not judged as the candidate who performed the best (that was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, though not by a large margin.)
Biden’s lead continues to be based on strong support from African-Americans, from those 65 and older, and from Democratic voters in the Midwest and South. Biden, Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are tightly bunched at the top in the Northeast and West. Only among liberals does Warren lead Biden, but Biden is far ahead among moderates, with Buttigieg tied with Warren with this group. Most Democratic voters have a choice: just 7% are unsure.
The other Democratic candidates currently are far behind. California Senator Kamala Harris, who just left the race, was in fifth place, but with only 4% support. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who just joined the race, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar are next at 3%.
Democratic voters perceive the top three candidates are ideologically distinct. Nearly three in four see Sanders and Warren as liberals (although far more call Sanders “very liberal” than say this about Warren), and a majority (52%) call Biden a moderate. But voters’ viewpoint of Buttigieg is less clear. Democratic primary voters are as likely to call him a “very liberal” or “liberal” (36%) as to say he is moderate (35%). Among the general public, all four are seen as liberals.
Biden’s biggest advantage may be that more Democratic voters see him as electable as say that about any of the other frontrunners. A majority (57%) of Democratic voters believe Biden can win the 2020 general election against President Trump, and just 19 percent believe he will lose. The rest aren’t sure.
More registered voters today say they would vote for the as-yet-unnamed Democratic nominee (48%) than would vote to re-elect the President (42%). But the President does have an advantage when Americans answer the question Ronald Reagan put to the electorate in 1980: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” A plurality (46%) of US adults say, yes, they are better off today compared to one-third (32%) who say they were better off four years ago.
It is a partisan answer, of course, but one in four Democrats (25%) agree that they personally are better off today. But Democrats are more certain that the country was better off four years ago (71%) when Obama was in office. Republicans, on the other hand, are as positive about the state of the country today (78% say it is better off) as they are about their own lives (79% say they are better off now).