Democratic voters’ minds remain unchanged compared to six months ago

Linley SandersData Journalist
January 23, 2020, 1:25 PM UTC

Democratic presidential candidates have entered and departed the race over the last six months, but Economist/YouGov polls show a steady three-way race nationally.

Former President Joe Biden holds the national advantage among registered voters, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll. Nearly three in ten (28%) registered Democratic primary voters select Biden as their first choice, which is a number that’s remained steady throughout his candidacy. In a June 2019 poll, Biden was the top pick of about a quarter (24%) of registered Democratic voters. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (21%) and Senator Bernie Sanders (18%) continue to trail Biden in the national race for registered Democratic primary voters, and their numbers remain within the margin of error when compared to six months ago. All of the other Democratic presidential candidates have single-digit support in this week’s poll: Buttigieg (8%), Bloomberg (6%), Klobuchar (4%), Yang (3%), Gabbard (3%), and Steyer (2%). 

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders remain steady first choice picks when compared to six months ago

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America’s top three are strong in several ways. In addition to leading the first choice selection and overall consideration, Sanders (14%), Warren (13%), and Biden (10%) are the leading contenders for voters’ second choice. That alignment can matter a lot, particularly in state caucuses where the supporters of candidates without enough overall support are asked to commit themselves to their secondary option. 

The Iowa caucuses will begin the Democratic nomination process in fewer than two weeks, and the generic ballot is closer than ever: 45% of registered voters nationally say they will vote for the Democratic Party candidate and 44% say they will vote for President Donald Trump. Nearly one in ten (9%) say their decision “depends” on the events of the next year. In last week’s poll, 47 percent chose the generic Democrat, and 42 percent backed Trump.

This week’s margins are similar to Economist/YouGov data from six months ago—prior to the Democratic debates and impeachment proceedings over Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate the Biden family. In June 2019, nearly two in five (38%) Americans said they would support the Democrat, 35 percent planned to vote for Trump, and 13 percent said it depends. 

More than anything, Democrats want a candidate who can beat Trump in the general election. A majority of registered voters who will vote in the Democratic primaries or caucuses (65%) say they want to nominate a candidate who can win more than they want to nominate a candidate who agrees with them on most issues (35%). Those margins are similar for liberals and moderates who intend to vote in the Democratic contests.

Democratic primary voters believe Biden is still their best chance at defeating Trump. About two-thirds (65%) say he would probably beat Trump in the 2020 presidential election. A majority of Democratic primary voters (53%) say Sanders could do the same. They are less confident in other candidates, including Bloomberg (46%), Warren (45%), and Buttigieg (33%).

Presidential politics

Related: How Americans describe the Democratic presidential candidates

See the full toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty