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3-Way Lead as Dem 2020 Picture Shifts

Monday, Aug. 26, 2019

Sanders and Warren rise; Biden drops

West Long Branch, NJ – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Vice President Joe Biden are currently bunched together in the national Democratic presidential preference contest. Movement in the latest Monmouth University Poll – positive for Warren and Sanders, negative for Biden – suggests the 2020 presidential nomination process may be entering a volatile stage.  The poll results also suggest that liberal voters are starting to take a closer look at a wider range of candidates, while moderates are focusing on those with the highest name recognition.  Another key finding that could contribute to growing volatility in the race is confusion over “Medicare for All.” Most say support for this policy is an important factor in choosing a Democratic nominee, but voters actually prefer a public option over a single payer plan.

The poll finds a virtual three-way tie among Sanders (20%), Warren (20%), and Biden (19%) in the presidential nomination preferences of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters across the country. Compared to Monmouth’s June poll, these results represent an increase in support for both Sanders (up from 14%) and Warren (up from 15%), and a significant drop for Biden (down from 32%).

Results for the rest of the field are fairly stable compared to two months ago. These candidates include California Sen. Kamala Harris at 8% support (identical to 8% in June), New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 4% (2% in June), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 4% (5% in June), entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 3% (2% in June), former cabinet secretary Julián Castro at 2% (<1% in June), former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 2% (3% in June), and author Marianne Williamson at 2% (1% in June). Support for the remaining 13 candidates included in the preference poll registered only 1% or less.

Biden has suffered an across the board decline in his support since June.  He lost ground with white Democrats (from 32% to 18%) and voters of color (from 33% to 19%), among voters without a college degree (from 35% to 18%) and college graduates (from 28% to 20%), with both men (from 38% to 24%) and women (from 29% to 16%), and among voters under 50 years old (from 21% to 6%) as well as voters aged 50 and over (from 42% to 33%).  Most of Biden’s lost support in these groups shifted almost equally toward Sanders and Warren.

“The main takeaway from this poll is that the Democratic race has become volatile.  Liberal voters are starting to cast about for a candidate they can identify with.  Moderate voters, who have been paying less attention, seem to be expressing doubts about Biden. But they are swinging more toward one of the left-leaning contenders with high name recognition rather than toward a lesser known candidate who might be more in line with them politically,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.  He added, “It’s important to keep in mind this is just one snapshot from one poll.  But it does raise warning signs of increased churning in the Democratic nomination contest now that voters are starting to pay closer attention.”

Biden lost support over the past two months among Democrats who call themselves moderate or conservative (from 40% to 22%) with the shift among these voters accruing to both Sanders (from 10% to 20%) and Warren (from 6% to 16%).  Biden also lost support among liberals (from 24% to 15%), but this group’s backing has scattered to a variety of other candidates. Sanders has picked up a few points among liberal voters (from 17% to 21%) while Warren has held fairly steady (from 25% to 24%).  Also, Harris has not budged with this group (from 10% to 11%) and Buttigieg has slipped slightly (from 8% to 5%).  However, the aggregate support for four other candidates – namely Booker, Castro, Williamson and Yang – has gone up a total of 8 points among liberal Democrats (from 8% to 16% for the four combined).

The Monmouth poll also finds that Biden has lost his small edge in the early states where Democrats will cast ballots from February through Super Tuesday. His even larger lead in the later states has vanished as well.  Biden (20%), Warren (20%), Sanders (16%), and Harris (12%) are all in the top tier among voters in the early states. Biden has slipped by 6 points since June and Warren has gained 5 points over the same time span.  Early state support for Sanders and Harris has not changed much.  In the later states, Biden’s support has plummeted from 38% in June to 17% now, while both Warren (from 16% to 20%) and Sanders (from 13% to 23%) have made gains.

“Biden’s drop in support is coming disproportionately from later states that have less impact on the process. But if this trend continues it could spell trouble for him in the early states if it undermines his claim to being the most electable candidate.  This could benefit someone like Harris, who remains competitive in the early states and could use a strong showing there to propel her into the top tier.  Based on the current data, though, Warren looks like the candidate with the greatest momentum right now,” said Murray.

2020 DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT by state primary schedule *
  EARLY STATESOTHER STATES
  Aug‘19 Jun‘19May‘19Aug‘19Jun‘19May‘19
Elizabeth Warren 20% 15% 9% 20% 16% 11%
Joe Biden 20% 26% 26% 17% 38% 38%
Bernie Sanders 16% 15% 14% 23% 13% 16%
Kamala Harris 12% 11% 14% 5% 5% 8%
Cory Booker 2% 3% <1% 5% 1% 1%
Pete Buttigieg 4% 4% 6% 4% 6% 6%
Andrew Yang 5% 3% 2% 2% 1% 0%
Julián Castro 2% 1% 1% 2% <1% 0%
Beto O’Rourke 3% 6% 3% 1% 1% 4%
Marianne Williamson 1% 1% 1% 3% 1% 1%
  * Early states include those scheduled to or likely to hold a
primary/caucus event in February 2020 or on Super Tuesday (March 3rd).

Warren has seen her personal ratings improve steadily over the past few months.  She currently earns a 65% favorable and 13% unfavorable rating, up from 60%-14% in May, the last time Monmouth tracked the 2020 candidate ratings.  At the same, time Biden has seen his ratings drop to 66% favorable and 25% unfavorable, from 74%-17% three months ago. The ratings for Sanders have been comparatively more stable at 64% favorable and 24% unfavorable compared with 65%-21% in Monmouth’s May poll.

At least 2-in-3 Democratic voters can now recognize the names of 11 candidates Monmouth has been tracking in terms of voter favorability since January.  Most have seen a small uptick in basic name recognition over the past three months of between 5 and 13 percentage points. The exceptions are Biden and Sanders on one hand, both of whom have been universally familiar to Democratic voters since the beginning of the campaign, and Williamson on the other hand, whose name recognition shot up 19 points from 48% in May to 67% in the current poll.  In Williamson’s case, though, the increased notoriety has led to a rise in negative views, currently earning her a 14% favorable and 25% unfavorable rating, which is down from an evenly divided 10%-10% rating in May.

Other candidates who have seen a downturn in their ratings are Harris at 56% favorable and 17% unfavorable (from 58%-9% in May) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 27% favorable and 18% unfavorable (from 32%-10% in May).  Those who have seen a slight improvement in their ratings are Booker at 49% favorable and 14% unfavorable (from 41%-13% in May), Buttigieg at 43% favorable and 14% unfavorable (from 35%-11% in May), and Yang at 24% favorable and 12% unfavorable (from 12%-13% in May).  Candidates who are holding relatively steady are Castro at 35% favorable and 13% unfavorable (from 28%-10% in May) and O’Rourke at 39% favorable and 20% unfavorable (from 40%-19% in May).

2020 CANDIDATE OPINION AMONG DEMOCRATIC VOTERS
Net favorability rating: Aug ‘19 May ‘19 Apr ‘19 Mar ‘19 Jan ‘19
Elizabeth Warren +52 +46 +32 +30 +40
Joe Biden +41 +57 +56 +63 +71
Bernie Sanders +40 +44 +44 +53 +49
Kamala Harris +39 +49 +40 +42 +33
Cory Booker +35 +28 +24 +31 +33
Pete Buttigieg +29 +24 +29 n/a +2
Julián Castro +22 +18 n/a n/a +15
Beto O’Rourke +19 +21 +31 +26 +32
Andrew Yang +12 –1 n/a n/a 0
Amy Klobuchar +9 +22 +14 +13 +15
Marianne Williamson –11 0 n/a +4 n/a
           

The two most recent entrants in the crowded field earn net negative ratings. Former naval officer and Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak has a negative 5% favorable and 11% unfavorable rating with 53% name recognition.  Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who has spent heavily on advertising since getting into the race, earns a 9% favorable and 25% unfavorable rating with 70% name recognition.

On the issue of health care, 58% of party voters say it is very important to them that the Democrats nominate someone who supports “Medicare for All.”  Another 23% say it is somewhat important, 10% say it is not important, and 9% are unsure. However, it is not clear that Medicare for All means the same thing to all voters.  When asked specifically about what type of health insurance system they prefer, 53% of Democratic voters say they want a system that offers an opt in to Medicare while retaining the private insurance market. Just 22% say they want to move to a system where Medicare for All replaces private insurance. Another 7% prefer to keep insurance private for people under 65 but regulate the costs and 11% want to leave the system basically as it is now. 

Those who prefer a public option are divided into two camps that include 18% who would like to move to a universal public insurance system eventually and 33% who say that there should always be the choice of private coverage.  In other words, only 4-in-10 Democrats want to get rid of the private insurance market when the 22% who want Medicare for All now are combined with the 18% who would like to move to a universal public system at some point in the future.

“We asked the public option question in our Iowa poll earlier this month and got a lot of flak from Medicare for All advocates who claim that polls show widespread support for their idea.  It seems from these results, though, the term has a wide range of meanings among Democratic voters. Many conflate the public-only program name with a public option.  There is a lot more nuance in public opinion on this issue that could become problematic for proponents as voters become more familiar with what Medicare for All actually entails,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 16 to 20, 2019 with 800 adults in the United States. Results in this release are based on 298 registered voters who identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, which has a +/- 5.7 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-13 previously released.]

14. I know the 2020 election is far away, but who would you support for the Democratic nomination for president if the candidates were the following? [INCLUDES LEANERS] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

  TREND:
(with leaners)
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Jan.
2019
Bernie Sanders 20% 14% 15% 20% 25% 16%
Elizabeth Warren 20% 15% 10% 6% 8% 8%
Joe Biden 19% 32% 33% 27% 28% 29%
Kamala Harris 8% 8% 11% 8% 10% 11%
Cory Booker 4% 2% 1% 2% 5% 4%
Pete Buttigieg 4% 5% 6% 8% <1% 0%
Andrew Yang 3% 2% 1% <1% 1% 1%
Julián Castro 2% <1% 1% <1% 1% 1%
Beto O’Rourke 2% 3% 4% 4% 6% 7%
Marianne Williamson 2% 1% 1% <1% <1% n/a
Bill de Blasio 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% n/a
Tulsi Gabbard 1% 1% 1% 0% <1% 1%
Amy Klobuchar 1% 1% 3% 1% 3% 2%
Michael Bennet <1% 0% <1% 0% <1% n/a
Steve Bullock <1% 0% 0% 0% 0% n/a
Kirsten Gillibrand <1% <1% <1% <1% <1% 1%
Joe Sestak <1% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Tom Steyer <1% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
John Delaney 0% 0% <1% 0% 0% <1%
Jay Inslee * 0% 1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Wayne Messam 0% 0% 0% <1% n/a n/a
Seth Moulton * 0% 0% 0% <1% n/a n/a
Tim Ryan 0% <1% <1% 0% n/a n/a
(VOL) Other 1% 0% <1% 3% 5% 8%
(VOL) No one <1% 1% 2% 3% <1% 3%
(VOL) Undecided 10% 11% 9% 14% 8% 9%
 (n) (298) (306) (334) (330) (310) (313)

        * The poll was conducted before Inslee and Moulton dropped out of the race.

15. I’m going to read you the names of some people who are running for president in 2020.  Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion. If you have not heard of the person, just let me know. [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

  TREND:

Favorable Unfavorable No
opinion
Not
heard of
(n)
Former Vice President Joe Biden 66% 25% 8% 1% (298)
   — May 2019 74% 17% 7% 1% (334)
   — April  2019 72% 16% 12% 1% (330)
   — March  2019 76% 13% 9% 2% (310)
   — January  2019 80% 9% 8% 3% (313)
           
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders 64% 24% 10% 2% (298)
   — May 2019 65% 21% 12% 2% (334)
   — April  2019 65% 21% 13% 1% (330)
   — March  2019 70% 17% 10% 3% (310)
   — January  2019 68% 19% 9% 4% (313)
           
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 65% 13% 16% 7% (298)
   — May 2019 60% 14% 14% 12% (334)
   — April  2019 51% 19% 18% 12% (330)
   — March  2019 49% 19% 15% 17% (310)
   — January  2019 57% 17% 16% 11% (313)
           
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke 39% 20% 26% 15% (298)
   — May 2019 40% 19% 20% 22% (334)
   — April  2019 43% 12% 22% 23% (330)
   — March  2019 38% 12% 21% 29% (310)
   — January  2019 41% 9% 23% 27% (313)
           
California Senator Kamala Harris 56% 17% 16% 11% (298)
   — May 2019 58% 9% 15% 18% (334)
   — April  2019 50% 10% 19% 21% (330)
   — March  2019 53% 11% 16% 20% (310)
   — January  2019 46% 13% 21% 20% (313)
           
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar 27% 18% 34% 20% (298)
   — May 2019 32% 10% 28% 30% (334)
   — April  2019 27% 13% 28% 32% (330)
   — March  2019 26% 13% 29% 33% (310)
   — January  2019 23% 8% 30% 39% (313)
           
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg 43% 14% 20% 23% (298)
   — May 2019 35% 11% 24% 30% (334)
   — April  2019 35% 6% 25% 34% (330)
   — March  2019
   — January  2019 8% 6% 27% 58% (313)
           
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker 49% 14% 25% 13% (298)
   — May 2019 41% 13% 26% 19% (334)
   — April  2019 40% 16% 24% 20% (330)
   — March  2019 43% 12% 20% 25% (310)
   — January  2019 44% 11% 20% 25% (313)
           
 Former cabinet secretary Julián Castro 35% 13% 32% 20% (298)
   — May 2019 28% 10% 31% 31% (334)
   — April  2019
   — March  2019
   — January  2019 24% 9% 32% 35% (313)
           
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang 24% 12% 36% 29% (298)
   — May 2019 12% 13% 33% 42% (334)
   — April  2019
   — March  2019
   — January  2019 10% 10% 26% 53% (313)
           
Author Marianne Williamson 14% 25% 28% 33% (298)
   — May 2019 10% 10% 28% 52% (334)
   — April  2019
   — March  2019 8% 4% 21% 67% (310)
   — January  2019
           
Former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak 5% 11% 37% 47% (298)
   — May 2019
   — April  2019
   — March  2019
   — January  2019
           
Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer 9% 25% 37% 30% (298)
   — May 2019
   — April  2019
   — March  2019
   — January  2019
           

16. How important is it to you that the Democrats nominate someone who supports Medicare for All – very important, somewhat important, not important, or are you not sure?

  Aug.
2019
Very important 58%
Somewhat important 23%
Not important 10%
Not sure 9%
(n) (298)

17. Which of the following comes closest to how you would like to see health care handled:  A. get rid of all private insurance coverage in favor of having everyone on a single public plan like Medicare for All, B. allow people to either opt into Medicare or keep their private coverage, C. keep health insurance private for people under age 65 but regulate the costs, or D. keep the health insurance system basically as it is?

  Aug.
2019
A. Get rid of all private insurance coverage in favor of … Medicare for All 22%
B. Allow people to either opt into Medicare or keep their private coverage 53%
C. Keep health insurance private for people under age 65 but regulate the costs 7%
D. Keep the health insurance system basically as it is 11%
(VOL) Other 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 4%
(n) (298)

17A. [If “B. ALLOW PEOPLE TO OPT INTO MEDICARE OR KEEP THEIR PRIVATE COVERAGE” in Q17, ASK:]  Would you eventually like to see the nation’s health care coverage move to a universal public system like Medicare for All or do you think there should always be a choice to keep your private coverage?  [Percentages are based on the total sample of Democrats.]

  Aug.
2019
Medicare for All now (from Q17) 22%
Public option:  Eventually move to a universal public system like Medicare for All 18%
Public option:  Should always be a choice to keep your private coverage 33%
Public option:  Don’t know what should eventually happen 2%
Minor, none, other changes to health insurance (from Q17) 21%
(VOL) Don’t know (from Q17) 4%
(n) (298)

[Q18-26 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 16 to 20, 2019 with a national random sample of 800 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 314 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 486 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. The results in this poll release are based on a subsample of 298 registered voters who identify themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on the Democratic voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
DEMOCRATIC VOTERS
 
38% Male
62% Female
 
31% 18-34
31% 35-54
38% 55+
 
53% White
18% Black
20% Hispanic
  9% Asian/Other
 
59% No degree
41% 4 year degree
  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs