Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas – and though he may not have campaigned in Nevada, the next state to vote, the latest Economist/YouGov Poll (conducted before Bloomberg qualified on the basis of his support in polls) finds Democratic primary voters looking forward to his participation (65%) on the debate stage.
By more than three to one, Democratic voters said that Bloomberg should participate in the next debate; they are also more likely than not to approve of the rules change which eliminated the requirement that candidates receive donations from an increasing number of individual donors (Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign).
Voters who name Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as their first choice are the least likely to agree with the rules change (and the only group of Democratic voters clearly to disapprove of it): 31% of Sanders supporters approve of the rules change, but 43% disapprove. Democratic voters favoring former Vice President Joe Biden approve of the change 53% to 22%; supporters of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are divided.
However, all candidates’ voters believe Bloomberg should participate in the debate. While half of those who don’t like the rules change don’t think Bloomberg should be in the debate, a third of the disapprovers want him in the debate.
Sanders has taken the lead in first-choice preference of Democratic voters in this poll. He is clearly ahead of Biden and Warren, with Bloomberg and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg behind them and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar following.
Sanders is not only the choice of more voters than name any other candidate; he is also seen as the one most likely to get the nomination. However, at this point, the field continues to be extremely divided – as many Democratic voters say they would be disappointed if Sanders were nominated (24%) as say he is their first choice (24%). However, even more, would be disappointed with a Biden (26%) or Bloomberg (30%) nomination.
Potential voter disappointment breaks down on what appears to be ideological lines. Half of Sanders supporters and 44 percent of Warren voters say they would be disappointed with a Bloomberg nomination. Nearly half of Sanders voters would also be disappointed should Biden be nominated. Potential disappointment with a Sanders nomination is highest among those now supporting some of the more moderate candidates like Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar.
Biden remains strong with African-American Democratic voters, though his support among this group has dropped from earlier in the campaign: 37 percent of black Democratic voters choose Biden, more than twice as many as name Sanders (17%) or Bloomberg (16%). Black support for all the other Democratic candidates is in single digits.
Bloomberg has faced criticism about his statements on black Americans and crime, as well as the stop-and-frisk policy in place during his terms as Mayor. But black Americans in this poll are more likely to say that Bloomberg cares about their needs and problems than to say he doesn’t. However, Biden, Sanders, and Warren all are seen as caring by more African-Americans than say this about Bloomberg.
All of the Democratic candidates — whatever their standing — fare better than the current President on this measure, however. A majority of black Americans believe President Trump cares “not at all” (55%) about their needs and problems.
For Democratic voters, electability matters more than issues. But those voters continue to see a tough general election road ahead. One in five Democratic primary voters now say they believe Donald Trump will be re-elected.
Asked if each of the six Democratic poll leaders can defeat the President, majorities of Democratic voters say Sanders, Biden, and Bloomberg can. But one in four believes each is more likely to lose. As for Warren, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, less than half of Democratic voters currently expect a general election victory for them, while more than a third think each would lose.
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, trailing far behind in Democratic voter preference, remains the most disliked of the current Democratic candidates among Democratic voters. Half of Democratic voters have an unfavorable opinion of Gabbard, and 43% would be disappointed if she were nominated, more than say that about any of the other Democrats.
Related: More registered voters have seen Bloomberg advertisements than Trump advertisements
Read the full toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll