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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Dems Prefer Electability in 2020

Monday, February 04, 2019

Some GOP voters want a primary challenge but most would back Trump

West Long Branch, NJ – In the run-up to 2020, fewer than 4-in-10 voters back a second term for President Donald Trump. The Monmouth University Poll finds a sizable number of GOP voters who would like to see Trump face a primary challenge, but few would actually vote against him.  On the Democratic side, voters say that they want a nominee who can defeat Trump, even if it means selecting someone they don’t quite agree with on the issues.

Just under 4-in-10 registered voters (38%) say that Trump should be re-elected in 2020. A majority of 57% say it is time for someone new in the Oval Office.  These results are nearly identical to a Monmouth poll taken in November (37% re-elect and 58% someone new). About 8-in-10 Republicans (79%) back a second term for the president while nearly all Democrats (94%) say it is time for someone new.  Most independent voters (55%) want a change while 39% support the incumbent.

Republican voters and independents who lean Republican are divided on whether Trump should be given a clear path to their party’s re-nomination next year. Just under half (49%) would prefer that Trump run unopposed while 43% would like to see him face a primary challenge.

Despite the fact that more than 4-in-10 Republicans would like to see a contested primary, it is not clear that such a race would be competitive.  Trump is poised to win in a rout if he should happen to face either of the GOP candidates who hung in the longest back in 2016. In a hypothetical rematch against Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Trump garners 66% support to 21% for his challenger.  Against former Ohio Governor John Kasich, Trump is backed by 73% to 14% for the challenger.

Even among Republican voters who claim they want to see a primary challenge, the president retains significant support in these two hypothetical match-ups.  He would still beat both – Cruz by 43% to 37% and Kasich by 47% to 33% – among voters who say they prefer a contested primary.  To be clear, neither of these politicians have indicated they will challenge the president in 2020.

“It’s not clear that any Republican, whether a past challenger or new blood, would have a realistic shot at taking the nomination. The party’s base belongs to Trump,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll also asked registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents about their party’s nomination process.  In considering who should be their party’s standard bearer, a majority of 56% prefer someone who would be a strong candidate against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues.  Just 33% say they would prefer a nominee who they are aligned with on the issues even if that person would have a hard time beating Trump.  Democratic women (61%) are more likely than men (45%) to say they would put their policy positions aside in order to get a nominee who could beat Trump.

“In prior elections, voters from both parties consistently prioritized shared values over electability when selecting a nominee. It looks like Democrats may be willing to flip that equation in 2020 because of their desire to defeat Trump. This is something to pay close attention to when primary voters really start tuning into the campaign,” said Murray.

Among a possible field of 19 announced and potential contenders, former Vice President Joe Biden currently has the support of 29% of Democratic voters, followed by 16% for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and 11% for California Senator Kamala Harris. Other candidates who register support include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (8%), former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (7%), former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (4%), New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (4%), and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (2%).  The other 11 candidates asked about in the survey receive support from no more than 1% of Democratic voters at this time.

Biden’s strongest support comes from Democrats who consider themselves moderate or conservative (39%), those age 50 and older (38%), white voters without a college degree (36%), and men (35%).  Sanders’ strongest support comes from voters under the age of 50 (27%) and liberals (23%).  O’Rourke and Booker do better among voters of color than they do among white Democrats (12% to 3% for O’Rourke and 6% to 1% for Booker).  Harris does about the same among white voters (12%) as among Democrats of color (9%). Given the small sample sizes for these subgroups, the differences tend to be statistically insignificant.

When asked who they would least like to see get their party’s nomination, 10% of Democratic voters name Sanders, 5% each name Biden, Harris, or Warren, 4% name Bloomberg, and 3% each name Booker, O’Rourke, or New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. However, 4-in-10 Democrats (39%) say they cannot think of any potential candidate they would least like to see as the nominee and another 9% specifically say that anyone from the field would be acceptable to them.

“As with any presidential nominating contest at this point in time, voter preferences are driven largely by name recognition. It would be very unusual if these results don’t change substantially when we get closer to next year’s primary contests.  These early polls are most useful for looking at each candidate’s profile among the party faithful to assess potential viability,” said Murray.



Total w/






Joe Biden





Bernie Sanders





Elizabeth Warren





Mike Bloomberg





Kamala Harris





Cory Booker





Beto O’Rourke





Eric Holder





Kirsten Gillibrand





Julián Castro





Amy Klobuchar





Tulsi Gabbard





Sherrod Brown





Terry McAuliffe





John Delaney





John Hickenlooper





Andrew Yang





Jay Inslee





Pete Buttigieg





Voter opinion of 19 Democratic candidates and potential presidential contenders asked about in the poll tends to be largely positive, although there are some exceptions. Biden and Sanders are the best known, with nearly 9-in-10 Democratic voters providing a rating of them, about 3-in-4 are familiar enough with Warren to offer a rating on her, while 6-in-10 have an opinion of Bloomberg and Harris and about half are able to offer an opinion of Booker, O’Rourke, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Biden has the best net rating in the field at +71 (80% favorable and 9% unfavorable).  Sanders (+49 net rating, 68% favorable and 19% unfavorable) and Warren (+40, 57% favorable and 17% unfavorable) also earn largely positive reviews from Democratic Party voters.  The next tier of candidates includes Harris (+33, 46% favorable and 13% unfavorable), Booker (+33, 44% favorable and 11% unfavorable), and O’Rourke (+32, 41% favorable and 9% unfavorable).  Holder earns a net +21 rating (35% favorable and 14% unfavorable).  Democratic voters are a little more lukewarm about Bloomberg, giving him a +10 net rating (35% favorable and 25% unfavorable).

Candidates who are familiar to between 3-in-10 and 4-in-10 Democratic voters include Gillibrand (+16 net rating, 28% favorable and 12% unfavorable), former cabinet secretary Julián Castro (+15, 24% favorable and 9% unfavorable), Klobuchar (+15, 23% favorable and 8% unfavorable), and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (+12, 21% favorable and 9% unfavorable).  Lesser-known contenders include Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (+11, 19% favorable and 8% unfavorable), former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (+7, 17% favorable and 10% unfavorable), former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (+9, 16% favorable and 7% unfavorable), former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (+3, 13% favorable and 10% unfavorable), entrepreneur Andrew Yang (even, 10% favorable and 10% unfavorable), Washington Governor Jay Inslee (+3, 11% favorable and 8% unfavorable), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (+2, 8% favorable and 6% unfavorable).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 25 to 27, 2019 with 735 registered voters in the United States, which has a +/- 3.6 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The results in this release based on 335 registered Republicans and leaning Republican voters have a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.  The results in this release based on 313 registered Democrats and leaning Democratic voters have a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.



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


[Q1-17 previously released.]


18. Looking ahead to the 2020 election for President, do you think that Donald Trump should be re-elected, or do you think that it is time to have someone else in office?

Should be re-elected 38% 37%
Someone else should be in office 57% 58%
(VOL) Don’t know 5% 4%
(n) (735) (716)


[Questions 19 through 21 were asked of registered Republicans / leaning Republican voters; n=335, moe. +/- 5.4]


  1. I know the 2020 election is far away, but would you prefer that Donald Trump run unopposed for the Republican nomination or would you prefer to see him face a primary challenge in 2020?
Trump run unopposed 49%
Face a primary challenge 43%
(VOL) Don’t know 8%
(n) (335)



  1. Who would you support if the 2020 Republican nomination contest was between Donald Trump and former Ohio Governor John Kasich?
Trump 73%
Kasich 14%
(VOL) Neither, would not vote 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 11%
(n) (335)


  1. Who would you support if the 2020 Republican nomination contest was between Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz?
Trump 66%
Cruz 21%
(VOL) Neither, would not vote 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 9%
(n) (335)


[Questions 22 through 25 were asked of registered Democrats / leaning Democratic voters; n=313, moe. +/- 5.5]


  1. 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]
with leaners Jan.
Joe Biden 29%
Bernie Sanders 16%
Elizabeth Warren 8%
Beto O’Rourke 7%
Mike Bloomberg 4%
Amy Klobuchar 2%
Eric Holder 1%
Cory Booker 4%
Kamala Harris 11%
Sherrod Brown 1%
Pete Buttigieg 0%
Julián Castro 1%
John Delaney


John Hickenlooper 1%
Jay Inslee


Tulsi Gabbard 1%
Kirsten Gillibrand 1%
Andrew Yang 1%
Terry McAuliffe


(VOL) Other 1%
(VOL) No one, do not want a Dem 3%
(VOL) Undecided 9%
(n) (313)


  1. Of the names I just mentioned, which one would you LEAST like to see as the Democratic nominee in 2020?
Joe Biden 5%
Bernie Sanders 10%
Elizabeth Warren 5%
Beto O’Rourke 3%
Mike Bloomberg 4%
Amy Klobuchar 1%
Eric Holder 2%
Cory Booker 3%
Kamala Harris 5%
Sherrod Brown 2%
Pete Buttigieg


Julián Castro 1%
John Delaney 1%
John Hickenlooper 1%
Jay Inslee 0%
Tulsi Gabbard 2%
Kirsten Gillibrand 3%
Andrew Yang 2%
Terry McAuliffe 1%
(VOL) Other 1%
(VOL) No one, any acceptable 9%
(VOL) Undecided 39%
(n) (313)


  1. Which type of candidate would you prefer if you had to make a choice between: a Democrat you agree with on most issues but would have a hard time beating Donald Trump or a Democrat you do NOT agree with on most issues but would be a stronger candidate against Donald Trump? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]
Agrees with but hard time beating Trump 33%
Do not agree with but stronger against Trump 56%
(VOL) Rejects choice / no need to pick between two 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 10%
(n) (313)


  1. I’m going to read you the names of some people who are running or might run 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]




heard of


Former Vice President Joe Biden 80% 9% 8% 3% (313)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders 68% 19% 9% 4% (313)
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 57% 17% 16% 11% (313)
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke 41% 9% 23% 27% (313)
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg 35% 25% 33% 7% (313)
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar 23% 8% 30% 39% (313)
Former Attorney General Eric Holder 35% 14% 28% 23% (313)
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker 44% 11% 20% 25% (313)
California Senator Kamala Harris 46% 13% 21% 20% (313)
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown 19% 8% 32% 41% (313)
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg 8% 6% 27% 58% (313)
Former cabinet secretary Julián Castro 24% 9% 32% 35% (313)
Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney 16% 7% 39% 37% (313)
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper 13% 10% 28% 49% (313)
Washington Governor Jay Inslee 11% 8% 35% 46% (313)
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard 21% 9% 28% 42% (313)
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 28% 12% 34% 26% (313)
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang 10% 10% 26% 53% (313)
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe 17% 10% 31% 42% (313)


[Q26-41 previously released.]



The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 25 to 27, 2019 with a national random sample of 805 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 405 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 400 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. The results in this poll release are based on a subsample of 735 registered voters. 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 SSI (RDD sample). For results based on the registered voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.6 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.





25% Republican
43% Independent
31% Democrat
46% Male
54% Female
26% 18-34
35% 35-54
39% 55+
67% White
13% Black
14% Hispanic
6% Asian/Other
67% No degree
33% 4 year degree


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

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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