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Only 1 In 4 Voters Firm About Choice

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020

Bloomberg, Sanders, and Biden lead field

West Long Branch, NJ – Mike Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden top the field in Virginia, one of the states that holds their Democratic presidential primary on Super Tuesday. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that most voters prioritize someone who can beat President Donald Trump and unite the country, but few seem to be firmly decided on who that candidate is. In hypothetical head-to-head contests between Sanders and four moderate contenders, the senator from Vermont wins half the time and loses half the time.

Among Virginia voters who are likely to participate in the Democratic primary on March 3, support currently stands at 22% for Bloomberg, 22% for Sanders, and 18% for Biden. They are trailed by Pete Buttigieg (11%), Amy Klobuchar (9%), and Elizabeth Warren (5%). Another 11% of likely primary voters remain undecided and do not lean toward any candidate at this time.

Virginia does not have party registration and any voter may participate in the primary. Among those who identify themselves as Democrats, Sanders (22%), Biden (21%), and Bloomberg (20%) are on equal footing. Other candidates get less support among self-identified Democrats, including Buttigieg (13%), Klobuchar (7%), and Warren (6%). Among those who call themselves independents (plus a small number of self-identified Republicans), Bloomberg (25%) and Sanders (23%) share the lead, followed by Biden (13%), Klobuchar (13%), and Buttigieg (8%), with Warren getting only 2%. White voters are split between Bloomberg (25%) and Sanders (23%), while Biden leads among black voters (37%). One-third of voters under 50 years old prefer Sanders (35%), while a similar number of those aged 65 and over back Bloomberg (32%).

“Virginia provides an interesting test on Super Tuesday. A wide range of candidates appeal to voters here and it is very much a jump ball at this point,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Just 1 in 4 (25%) likely Virginia Democratic primary voters are firmly set on their candidate choice (and another 1% have already voted absentee). Most are open to voting for a different candidate on March 3, with 18% saying there is a high possibility of this happening, 34% saying this is a moderate possibility and 10% saying this is a low possibility. The results out of Iowa and New Hampshire had little impact on how Virginia voters are viewing this race. Fully 81% said the outcomes of those contests did not really change their thinking about the upcoming primary. Among the small number who said they took a second look at the field because of the first two states, just under half said they changed their mind about whom to support (7%) and just over half said they did not (11%).

The poll asked voters how they would vote in a hypothetical two-person race pitting Sanders against one of the more moderate candidates. In these scenarios, Sanders edges past both Klobuchar (45% to 42%) and Buttigieg (44% to 42%) but comes out on the losing end against Bloomberg (41% to 47%) and by an even wider margin against Biden (38% to 51%).

In a Sanders versus Biden matchup, the former vice president has a small lead among white voters (49% Biden to 40% Sanders) and an even wider lead among black voters (63% to 27%). In a Sanders versus Bloomberg matchup, the white voter gap is about the same as for Biden (50% Bloomberg to 39% Sanders), while Sanders has a slight lead among black voters (43% Bloomberg to 49% Sanders). Men are split on Biden (48%) and Sanders (42%), while Biden wins among women (54% to 35%). Against Bloomberg, the race is somewhat closer among women (46% Bloomberg to 42% Sanders) than it is among men (49% Bloomberg to 39% Sanders).

In Sanders versus either Klobuchar or Buttigieg, Sanders wins the black vote by a large margin (60% to 26% against Klobuchar and 56% to 31% against Buttigieg), but loses the white vote (35% to 52% against Klobuchar and 37% to 48% against Buttigieg). Both men and women are nearly evenly divided when Sanders is matched up against either Klobuchar or Buttigieg.

“When pitted against Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg are stronger in Virginia’s racially diverse electorate than Klobuchar and Buttigieg.  Two of the leading candidates are already well known and the third has been spending a lot of time and money here, so we can’t be sure whether these differences are the product of real preferences or just name recognition. This should become clearer when all the candidates start focusing on Super Tuesday,” said Murray.

Virginia voters are looking for electability – 62% say beating Trump is more important to their vote than lining up with a candidate on any policy issue. Another 22% say electability is as important as their top policy concern while just 14% say it is less important than issue alignment.  Among those who say beating Trump is their top priority, 23% support Biden, 23% support Bloomberg, and 17% support Sanders. Among those who say it is not a top priority, 31% support Sanders and 21% back Bloomberg.

Looking at candidate qualities, 67% of likely Democratic primary voters say they want someone who can unite the country, while 27% say they prefer someone who can bring about change. More than 4 in 10 “change” voters back Sanders (43%), while “unite” voters are divided between Bloomberg (26%) and Biden (19%).

Virginia Democratic primary voters are divided on the possibility of beating Trump in November. Nearly half (45%) think the incumbent will be reelected, while an identical number (45%) think he will lose to the Democrat. A bare majority (54%) of likely primary voters feel optimistic about this year’s election (27% very and 27% somewhat), while 41% are pessimistic (20% very and 21% somewhat). Black voters (72%) are more likely than white voters (46%) to feel optimistic about the 2020 election.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 13 to 16, 2020 with 400 Virginia voters who are likely to vote in the Democratic presidential primary on March 3, 2020, out of 706 registered voters that were contacted for the poll. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points. 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.)

1. If the Democratic primary election for president was today, would you vote for [NAMES WERE ROTATED]? [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of these candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward?]

 (with leaners) Feb.
2020
Mike Bloomberg 22%
Bernie Sanders 22%
Joe Biden 18%
Pete Buttigieg 11%
Amy Klobuchar 9%
Elizabeth Warren 5%
Tulsi Gabbard 1%
Tom Steyer 0%
(VOL) Other <1%
(VOL) Undecided 11%
      (n) (400)

2. Are you firmly decided on your candidate choice or are you open to the possibility of voting for a different candidate on primary day?  [If OPEN: Would you rate the possibility of supporting a different candidate as high, moderate, or low?]

 Feb.
2020
Firmly decided 25%
Open to different candidate … high possibility 18%
moderate possibility 34%
low possibility 10%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
No first choice (from Q1) 11%
(n) (400)

3. Who would be your second choice if you had to make one?

  Feb.
2020
Joe Biden 15%
Pete Buttigieg 14%
Mike Bloomberg 13%
Amy Klobuchar 10%
Bernie Sanders 10%
Elizabeth Warren 9%
Tulsi Gabbard 2%
Tom Steyer 2%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) No one 4%
(VOL) Undecided 19%
      (n) (400)

4. Did the results of the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses make you take a second look at any of the candidates, or did this not really change your thinking about who you will support in the primary?  [If TOOK A SECOND LOOK: Did you actually change your mind about who to support or not?]

  Feb.
2020
Took a second look, and… changed mind 7%
did not change mind 11%
Not really change thinking 81%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Don’t know 1%
(n) (400)

5. I am going to read you a few pairs of candidate names. If the Democratic nomination came down to just these two candidates by the Virginia primary, who would you vote for? [CANDIDATE PAIRS WERE ROTATED AND NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden

  Feb.
2020
Bernie Sanders 38%
Joe Biden 51%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Neither 3%
(VOL) Undecided 7%
      (n) (400)

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg

  Feb.
2020
Bernie Sanders 44%
Pete Buttigieg 42%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Neither 6%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
      (n) (400)

Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar

  Feb.
2020
Bernie Sanders 45%
Amy Klobuchar 42%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Neither 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
      (n) (400)

Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg

  Feb.
2020
Bernie Sanders 41%
Mike Bloomberg 47%
Already voted 1%
(VOL) Neither 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
      (n) (400)

6. When thinking about who you are supporting in the Democratic primary, how much of a factor is beating Donald Trump next November – is it more important than any policy issue you are concerned with, about as important as your top policy concern, or less important than your top policy concern?

  Feb.
2020
More important 62%
About as important 22%
Less important 14%
(VOL) Don’t know 1%
      (n) (400)

7. If you had to choose, are you more concerned about choosing a candidate who can bring about change or a candidate who can unite the country?

  Feb.
2020
Bring about change 27%
Unite the country 67%
(VOL) Neither 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 3%
      (n) (400)

8. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 2020 presidential election? [Is that very or somewhat optimistic/pessimistic?]

  Feb.
2020
Very optimistic 27%
Somewhat optimistic 27%
Somewhat pessimistic 21%
Very pessimistic 20%
(VOL) Neither, don’t care 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
      (n) (400)

9. As of right now, what do you think the chances are that Donald Trump gets reelected in November – do you think he will definitely get reelected, probably get reelected, probably lose to the Democrat, or definitely lose to the Democrat?

  Feb.
2020
Definitely get reelected 6%
Probably get reelected 39%
Probably lose to the Democrat 34%
Definitely lose to the Democrat 11%
(VOL) Depends on the Democrat 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
      (n) (400)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from February 13 to 16, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 706 Virginia voters drawn from a list of registered voters who participated in a primary or general election in the 2016, 2017, or 2018 election cycles (excluding those who have consistently voted in Republican primaries), or have registered to vote since November 2018. This includes 305 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 401 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Results are based on 400 voters who are likely to vote in the Democratic presidential primary on March 3, 2020. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the sample of likely Democratic primary voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.9 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)
 
Self-Reported Party
  62% Democrat
33% Independent
  5% Republican
 
43% Male
57% Female
 
17% 18-34
22% 35-49
33% 50-64
29% 65+
 
62% White, non-Hispanic
27% Black
  6% Hispanic
  5% Asian, other
 
45% No degree
55% 4 year degree
 
33% NoVA (CD 8/10/11)
49% East (CD 1/2/3/4/7)
18% West (CD 5/6/9)
 

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs

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