Poll: Biden outpacing Sanders and Warren to remain the Democratic favorite
Key findings from the national poll show Joe Biden ahead in both the Democratic primary field and in head-to-head matchups of Democratic candidates against President Donald Trump. The poll also gauges voters’ feelings about the Democratic race. (Illustration: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

Poll: Biden outpacing Sanders and Warren to remain the Democratic favorite

The latest USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll shows Joe Biden favored by likely voters in both the Democratic primary field and in head-to-head matchups of Democratic candidates against President Donald Trump. [3 min read]
ByJenesse Miller

Results from the Iowa Caucus are still out, but a national USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll show former Vice President Joe Biden retaining the Democratic primary lead ahead of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Results from the first poll of 2020 reflect some important changes in the primary contest, including the late entrance of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Notably, the results show Biden retaining a strong lead among the Democratic primary candidates, said Robert Shrum, director of the Center for the Political Future at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“These numbers show Joe Biden’s continuing strength. If he wins in Iowa, he has a pretty good path to the nomination,” Shrum said. “But if Biden performs poorly in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, it remains to be seen if this support is a firewall against early losses.”

Graphic showing Democratic candidate poll numbers

The matchups between President Trump and Democrats

Poll participants were asked who they would vote for if various Democratic party candidates were running against President Donald Trump in the general election. In each of the head-to-head matchups, Trump topped out at 41% support from those planning to vote or who leaned towards voting in the general election.

“It’s significant that Trump is only at about 40% of support against any of the Democrats we tested. Against Joe Biden, Trump is in landslide loss territory,” Shrum said.

Mike Murphy, co-director of the Center for the Political Future, said the results show the surprising potential strength of Sanders if he were to face Trump in the general election.

“I think it’s significant that Bernie Sanders is beating Trump in this poll. The idea that Bernie is a stone-cold campaign loser against Trump is not what this poll is saying,” Murphy said.

Graphic showing poll results of Democratics against President Trump

What happened to support for women candidates?

The poll shows that fewer than a quarter of women Democratic primary voters said they would vote for Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar if the primary or caucus were held today.

“Our polling shows … that Democrats’ fear of a second Trump win has seemingly overcome any potential for identity voting; one example of that is women are not overwhelmingly backing female candidates,” said Jill Darling, survey director for the poll.

“There’s this equation you read about in the punditocracy that women voters vote for women candidates, and it’s not what voters are telling us,” Murphy said.

Fewer men support either female candidate, the poll showed, with 13% backing Warren and 3% for Klobuchar.

What’s motivating Democratic primary voters to support their candidate?

Among Democratic primary voters and independents who lean toward voting Democratic, about two-thirds of those who say they are voting for their candidate because he can win against Trump in the general election chose Biden. Only 8% of those voters chose Sanders and 5% chose Warren.

Sanders and Warren split voters who want a candidate who can bring change, garnering roughly one third of the vote each, compared to 15% who chose Biden.

“Bernie Sanders voters don’t say winning is the most important thing, reminding me of the support for other candidates who were perceived to be incredibly unelectable at the beginning of their campaigns,” Murphy said. “Both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump wound up getting elected. The ghosts of primaries past are rattling their chains here.”

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