Post-Debate National Polls Show Biden Rebounding
The first round of polls after last week's debate has good news for the former Vice-President.
It’s been roughly a week since the fourth Democratic debate aired and the initial round of national polling seems to show that former Vice-President Biden has added to his lead and held off the surge that Senator Elizabeth Warren had been experiencing prior to the debate:
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for president has rebounded, and now stands at its widest margin since April, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
Biden has the support of 34% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, his best showing in CNN polling since just after his campaign’s formal launch on April 25.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are about even for second, with 19% and 16%, respectively. Behind them, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris of California each have 6% support, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke each at 3%.
Biden’s rise comes largely from a consolidation of support among his core backers, and doesn’t appear to harm any individual opponent. Warren and Sanders hold about even with their standing in the last CNN poll in September, and no other candidate has seen a shift of more than 2 points in that time.
But Biden has seen big spikes in support among moderate and conservative Democrats (43% support him now, up from 29% in the September poll), racial and ethnic minorities (from 28% among all nonwhites in September to 42% now) and older voters (up 13 points since September among those 45 and older) that outpace those among younger potential Democratic voters (up 5 points among those younger than 45).
The gains come as Biden’s time as vice president is put under the spotlight by President Donald Trump and his allies. Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives over allegations that he pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as the 2016 US election in return for releasing hundreds of millions in congressionally mandated defense funding meant for Ukraine. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while Biden was vice president. There is no evidence that either Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine.
The poll suggests that although Biden’s October debate performance did not blow away the audience (15% who watched or followed news about it said he had done the best job in the debate, well behind Warren’s 28% — but better than most on the stage), the arguments he made on health care, foreign policy and the economy may have boosted his standing with the potential Democratic electorate.
Asked which candidate would best handle a range of top issues, Biden leads the way on four of the six issues tested in the poll. He holds a massive edge over the field on foreign policy (56% say he would handle it best, well ahead of Sanders at 13% and Warren at 11%), and tops the next closest candidate by nearly 20 points on the economy (38% Biden, 19% Sanders, 16% Warren). Biden also outpaces the rest of the field as most trusted on immigration (29% Biden, 16% each Warren and Sanders) and gun policy (27% vs. 13% Sanders and 11% Warren, with O’Rourke close at 9%).
Biden doesn’t hold a significant edge on the critical issue of health care (31% Biden, 28% Sanders, 17% Warren) but he’s surged 13 points on the issue since June, when he lagged behind Sanders. Neither Sanders’ nor Warren’s numbers on the issue have moved significantly in that time.
And Biden now runs even with Sanders at 26% as best able to handle the climate crisis. Warren is at 18% on that issue. The results mark increases for Biden and Sanders, who were each at 19% on handling the climate in June.
The former vice president’s advantages on the issues come as he emphasizes an approach that appears to align with the preferences of most potential Democratic voters. A 53% majority say they want the nominee to advocate policies that have a good chance of becoming law, even if the changes aren’t as big, vs. 42% who prefer advocating big changes even if they have less of a chance of becoming law.
Among those voters who prefer an approach that prioritizes policies with a better chance of becoming law, 38% support Biden for the Democratic nomination, 17% Warren and just 8% Sanders. On the other side, it’s nearly a three-way split, with 27% behind Biden, 24% Sanders and 21% Warren.
These numbers are largely consistent with other national polls that have been released since the debate:
- The latest poll from The Hill and Harris X, for example, puts Vice-President at 27%, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren at 19%, Senator Bernie Sanders at 14%, Pete Buttigieg at 6%, Kamala Harris at 5%, Beto O’Rourke at 3%, Andrew Yang at 2%, and all other candidates at or below 1%;
- In what appears to be an outlier, the latest Emerson poll has Biden at 27%, Bernie Sanders at 25%, Elizabeth Warren at 21%, Beto O’Rourke at 6%, Kamala Harris at 5%, Andrew Yang at 4%, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard at 3%, Beto O’Rourke at 2%, and all the other candidates at 1% or less;
- The latest Politico/Morning Consult poll has Biden at 30%, Warren at 21%, Sanders at 15%, Buttigieg and Harris tied at 6%, O’Rourke, Yang, and Booker tied at 3%, Amy Klobuchar at 2%, and all other candidates at or under 1%;
- Finally, the latest SurveyUSA poll has Biden at 32%, Warren at 22%, Sanders at 17%, Harris at 7%, Buttigieg at 5%, O’Rourke, Yang, Booker, Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer tied at 2%, and all other candidates at or below 1%.
Looking at the RealClearPolitics average we see the following:
- Joe Biden — 28.9%
- Elizabeth Warren — 23.0%
- Bernie Sanders — 16.3%
- Pete Buttigieg — 6.3%
- Kamala Harris — 5.4%
- Beto O’Rourke — 2.4%
- Andrew Yang — 2.4%
- Cory Booker — 1.9%
- Amy Klobuchar — 1.9%
- Tulsi Gabbard — 1.3%
- Tom Stever — 1.1%
- All other candidates at or under 1%
Looking at the broader trend, the RCP chart shows Biden starting to inch back up, while Warren slips slightly. Sanders, meanwhile, is stuck in his range of between 15% and 20% and shows no sign of moving upward from there:
What all this suggests, at least for now, is that Biden is still the strongest candidate in the race notwithstanding the doubts that may have been raised about him in recent months. This is especially true among that portion of the Democratic Party that is more accurately described as center-left than “progressive” and among those voters for whom victory in the 2020 General Election, as opposed to advocacy of a purist position on policy, is the most important factor that they are looking at in the 2020 election. Biden also remains the strongest candidate among African-American Democrats notwithstanding the fact that there are two African-American Senators in the race. This last demographic is likely to prove crucial going forward.
Obviously, these numbers are merely a snapshot in time. With 104 days between now and the Iowa Caucuses, the race is far from over. However, there are some things that seem rather apparent. The primary one, of course, is that the race for the nomination has essentially winnowed down to five candidates — Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Harris — and that it appears unlikely that any of the other candidates are going to be able to break into this group. This can be seen not just in the nationwide numbers, but also in the state polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. The candidates outside this group are likely to see campaign donors and supporters dry up quickly, especially since they are likely to be excluded from future debates. Basically, the stage is set for the final stages of the pre-primary fight and the players have been selected. Where it goes from there is up to the voters.