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:

  1. Joe Biden — 28.9%
  2. Elizabeth Warren — 23.0%
  3. Bernie Sanders — 16.3%
  4. Pete Buttigieg — 6.3%
  5. Kamala Harris — 5.4%
  6. Beto O’Rourke — 2.4%
  7. Andrew Yang — 2.4%
  8. Cory Booker — 1.9%
  9. Amy Klobuchar — 1.9%
  10. Tulsi Gabbard — 1.3%
  11. Tom Stever — 1.1%
  12. 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.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I have to wonder if some of this is a rallying behind Biden in the face of Trump’s attempts to use taxpayer money to bribe Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on his political foe, Biden?

  2. DrDaveT says:

    I wish Sanders would go away, so that we could see how the redistribution of his supporters affects things.

    Then again, I also wish Biden would go away. Of all the candidates, he is the only one that I think is completely out of touch with how politics has changed over the past two decades, and would repeat Obama’s error of trying to court bipartisanship even in the face of irrational obstructionism.

    ETA: I would find it deliciously ironic if Trump had wasted all of his efforts AND gotten himself impeached in attempts to sabotage a candidate who turned out to be irrelevant.

  3. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I was wondering the exact same thing.

  4. EddieInCA says:

    I’ve said from the beginning that’s it’s gonna be Biden/Harris.

    Bernie has a ceiling. Its not enough.
    Warren has been trending up but her lack of confronting the obvious gaps is a few of her policies will give her a ceiling.
    Buttegieg will never get enough AA support.

    Biden’s rebound has three reasons.

    1. Warren has problems since the last debate.
    2. Bernie’s heart attack
    3. Trump’s amplification of Biden causing him to get attention he wouldn’t be getting.

    I believe that without Trump’s actions the last few weeks, Biden is still sinking. Instead Dema are rallying around him.

    The rest are done. They just don’t know it.

    Castro? Klobauchar? Harris? Booker? The rest? None of them can break 10% and time is getting close.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    The question may well be, who can run best against Mike Pence. I’m not at all sure Trump makes it to 2020.

  6. de stijl says:

    Please not Biden.

    I’m not anti-Biden, he would be a decent no-more-insanity choice. He would be an adequate placeholder. Kinda a depressing pick, imo. Kerry 2.0

  7. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Good point. The impeachometer jacked up a few notches in the last few days.

    It might not be Trump vs. ?

  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    Biden won’t beat Trump.

  9. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think there’s more than a slight possibility Trump could be carted, in restraints, from the Oval Office. He’s not accustomed to be cornered and thwarted like this.

    Okay, this could be wishful thinking on my part.

  10. EddieInCA says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    We disagree. Biden will beat Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. That’s enough.

  11. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Counterpoint: Biden beats Trump

    Not my preferred choice, but he’d win.

    If nominated, I’d vote for Biden in an instant. I prefer he not be, though.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    Kinda a depressing pick, imo. Kerry 2.0

    Actually, I think that’s unfair to Kerry. He would have made a much better president than Biden would today. In the current media and political climate, the various criticisms and concerns about Kerry seem almost quaint.

  13. Kathy says:

    The attempt to smear Biden before the primaries even begin, suggests Trump is deathly afraid of running against him.

    This would be a big advantage for Biden: the enemy’s already psyched himself out.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    I’d would want Biden to beat Trump as well, but I don’t believe he will. Biden does not inspire anyone to go to the polls, it’s difficult to see him generating the kind of turnout needed.

  15. Gustopher says:

    I look at the graph and I see Biden’s support oscillating with smaller and smaller peaks, so you might be looking at a local maximum.

    Warren has recently plateaued, and Bernie seems to have found his natural level of support a while ago, so Biden’s declining oscillation might be good enough to get the nomination.

    I like Biden, He would be a fine caretaker president, but I have a lot of trouble picturing him winning the general election. He’s not dynamic enough — safe choices tend to lose.

    I think/hope one of the little candidates is going to be a big surprise in the early primaries and change the race. I have no idea which one. There’s usually a surprise.

    And I really don’t want a septuagenarian.

    Warren is a vigorous and passionate septuagenarian at least…

  16. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “Warren has been trending up but her lack of confronting the obvious gaps is a few of her policies will give her a ceiling.”

    Unless, you know, she changes that.

    I seem to remember a long time ago in the distant past that posters here were declaring her candidacy dead because she took that DNA test. I think I’ll wait and see what she does.

  17. Teve says:

    Biden’s having a dead cat bounce.

    Warren 2020!

  18. EddieInCA says:


    @EddieInCA: “Warren has been trending up but her lack of confronting the obvious gaps is a few of her policies will give her a ceiling.”

    Unless, you know, she changes that.

    True. But it’s unlike her to have been caught like that. She’s usually so good on policy details. There is still alot of time. Many things can change.

  19. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Biden (or whoever) doesn’t really need to be inspiring. Trump provides all the inspiration and the get out the vote necessary.

    Both for and against.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, to me the purpose of a primary is to see who can win. The world is full of very interesting, dynamic people that could never get elected President. And to be honest, I’m with Hillary Clinton when she says that changing laws is more important than changing minds. Who would have thought that Lyndon Baines Johnson of frickin’ Texas would have done much more to actually enact Civil Rights legislation than John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts? Who would have thought that the combination of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower would do so much to set the US on a path to greatness for decades beyond their terms?

    So inspiring is nice. But effectiveness is a helluva lot nicer. And the first proof of effectiveness is winning the primary.

  21. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: When Comey dragged Clinton’s emails back up, my emotional response was “god, I just don’t want to deal with this crap anymore” and I really just didn’t want to vote. I voted anyway, but I didn’t really want to. Clinton was already a “why don’t we have anyone better?” candidate for me.

    It’s possible my ballot was already in the mail. Memory is a sketchy thing.

    Anyway, if I am an example of America at large, then I can assure you that fouling the entire process will discourage some potential voters who aren’t inspired and make them nonvoters.

    And fouling the entire process is the Republican game plan.

    I also live in a safe state, so my not voting would have been less harmful.

    (I did vote, I assure you. To the best of my recollection)

  22. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: Well, then I guess Biden should follow in the footsteps of Truman and LBJ by being VP to someone inspiring who died.

    Uninspiring folks win the primary and don’t get elected pretty often. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale can attest to that. Also Mitt Romney, and Bob Dole.

  23. Robert C says:

    Biden will look old and feeble against Trump. He’ll chew him up and cr*p him out. Warren is only hope.

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: I saw that you added “and died” there.

    Look, Kennedy and Reagan were inspiring. Kennedy didn’t get much dine and Reagan was a disaster. Carter was inspiring and was ineffective. But almost everyone else was just some guy. Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, George HW Bush, Clinton and Obama were basically effective Presidents (setting policy aside). Only one of them was inspiring.

  25. al Ameda says:

    Look, I’m not excited about Biden either. That said, I will vote for Joe or Hunter should either one be the nominee.

    However, I still think Republicans are producing their Elizabeth Warren (or Bernie Sanders)/Joe Stalin spots as we weigh in here at OTB.

  26. Patrick McNicol says:

    Warren’s support for the elimination of all private insurance is going to drive people away from her. Everybody wants major changes to the way we dole out healthcare. But, eliminating all private insurance is a step way too fast and far for a whole lot of people. You guys may not like it, but nominating someone way left on some issues runs the danger of alienating people that we need. They won’t vote for Trump but they might stay home-again. By the way, her policy of stopping all fracking immediately upon taking office will cost her thousands of votes in PA and OH. It’s just too much.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Patrick McNicol: Additionally, even in waaaaayy more “socialistic” health care programs in other countries, private insurance is an important component. Lots of the time, private insurance is what pays for stuff that the government doesn’t want to spend public money on or the stakeholders administrating the programs feel lack value. (There’s a reason that almost no one gets a colonoscopy or an MRI in Korea, for example–not withstanding the rates of death from colon and stomach cancer.) Eliminating private insurance is a mistake, but that’s not what would come out of Congress even if Warren were elected President (at least, I don’t see how it does) so to some degree she’s gonna eliminate insurance and we’re all gonna diiiiiieeeeee!!!!!!! is the cousin to the “Obama’s Death Panels” strawman of the last attempt at reform.

  28. Gustopher says:


    Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, George HW Bush, Clinton and Obama were basically effective Presidents (setting policy aside). Only one of them was inspiring.

    Lots of people loved Bill Clinton, he could feel their pain. Obama was genuinely inspiring. George HW Bush was inspiring standing next to Dukakis.

    The consensus “I guess he will do” nominee usually only beats the equally boring nominee.

    Truman and LBJ had the benefits of incumbency without the need to win at the head of the ticket first.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: Not really arguing with you. But one correction about Truman – incumbency was not much of an advantage for him. Roosevelt was a larger than life hero and everyone in the power structure, including both his own party leaders and most certainly including the press, knew Roosevelt thought him an idiot and never included him in anything. For instance, Truman did not know about the atomic bomb until the generals showed up telling him it was ready, and asking if it was OK to drop some on Japan. The press knew this, and covered him like a rustic hick that ambled into town, marveling at the tall buildings and, rather than tumble into an open manhole, fell into the presidency. The “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline didn’t come out of the blue. It came from the inability to do up to the minute polling in virtually every state. Polls were still often done door to door, as many didn’t have telephones or shared a party line. And for months Truman made no headway running against Dewey, slipping further and further behind. Relatively late in the game he changed his strategy and started running against the Republicans in Congress, and the press saw that as desperation, and so were sure nothing had changed. But it worked. I wish one of the Dems had the sense to do that. Let Trump be himself and instead focus on the psychophantic, boot-licking, do nothing Republicans in congress. It worked then and it will work now.