Kamala Harris Rises, Biden Falls Slightly, In First Post-Debate Poll

The first Democratic debate has had an impact in the polls, with Kamala Harris rising and Joe Biden falling, although he still remains far ahead of his opponents.

The first poll taken in the wake of the Democratic debates held on Wednesday and Thursday nights last week shows a not surprising boost for California Senator Kamala Harris but no real setback for former Vice-President Biden:

The number of Democratic primary voters who pick Kamala Harris as their first choice for president doubled after the first Democratic debates, vaulting the California senator into a third-place tie in a new poll.

The latest Morning Consult survey found Harris increased her standing to 12 percent in the poll, which was taken after the debate ended through Friday, up 6 percentage points over the previous week. Harris’ upswing came after she confronted Joe Biden over his history opposing school busing for desegregation, a dramatic moment that dominated news coverage afterward.

Harris hadn’t moved much since entering the race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — while two rival Democrats, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren passed Harris. After the debate, Harris pulled ahead of Buttigieg and into a tie with Warren.

Harris’ surge, which also netted her more than $2.5 million in donations as the second-quarter deadline approaches, came largely at Biden’s expense, the poll found. The former vice president, who maintains a large lead over the field at 33 percent, took the biggest post-debate hit, dropping 5 points after the Miami exchange over race and busing to end desegregation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders held steady in second at 19 percent, but the poll found he was the only major candidate to see a measurable drop in his favorability, which fell 7 points, to 67 percentage, since the previous Morning Consult survey. 

Here are the poll numbers for all the candidates registering above 2% support, the number in parenthesis is the level of support they got in last week’s Morning Consult poll):

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden — 33% (down from 38% in last week’s poll);
  • Senator Bernie Sanders — 19% (steady from the 19% in last week’s poll);
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren — 12% (down from 13% in last week’s poll);
  • Senator Kamala Harris — 12% (up from 6% in last week’s poll);
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg — 6% (down from 7% in last week’s poll);
  • Senator Cory Booker — 3% (steady from the 3% in last week’s poll);
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke — 2% (down from 4% in last weeks poll);
  • All other candidates are under 2% and none of the candidates who were under 2% in last weeks poll show any movement in the new poll

As James Joyner notes in a comment, all of these moves, with the slight exception of the 6-point jump for Harris, are within the five-point margin of error for the poll.

Given her performance at the debate on Thursday night, it’s not surprising that Harris would see a bump in her numbers. We’ll have to see if that is repeated in other polling likely to be released in the coming week to ten days, as well as the polls at the state level. As things stand right now, the new poll has only had a minimal impact on the RealClearPolitics average or the overall state of the ace as it looked prior to Wednesday night. Whether that remains the case in the weeks to come is something we’ll just have to wait to find out.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. James Joyner says:

    The poll has a 5-point margin of error. All of the fluctuations here, with the ever-so-slight exception of Harris’ 6-point jump, are within that.

  2. @James Joyner:

    As does the Biden drop. As I said, I think we’re going to have to wait until mid-July until we know the short-term impact this first debate.

  3. SKI says:

    Let me know when there is a poll of Iowa. National polls *really* don’t matter until after the early states and they will be driven by the results in those states.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Agreed. I enjoy media polls as much as the next political junkie but am always bemused when they treat random fluctuation within sampling error as news.