- Former Vice President Joe Biden has enjoyed a remarkably steady level of support in a broad field of 2020 candidates.
- INSIDER data suggests this is because likely Democratic primary voters believe he has the best shot of defeating President Donald Trump.
- INSIDER polling found 68% of likely Democratic primary voters believe Biden can beat Trump.
- Comparatively, just 47% of Democrats think Sen. Bernie Sanders – Biden’s closest contender – can defeat the current occupant of the White House.
- But what most sets Biden apart among contenders for the 2020 nomination is the loyalty he has among supporters.
- Biden voters tend to be more skeptical of non-Biden candidates than your typical Democrat.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s frontrunner status has been remarkable steady in a broad field of 2020 candidates so far and INSIDER data suggests this is because Democrats think he’s the best option by far to defeat President Donald Trump.
Biden is notoriously gaffe-prone, in his late 70s, and his long record in public life has opened him up to a slew of criticism on everything from his stance on criminal justice in the mid-1990s to his overly physical behavior around women.
But Democratic voters are seemingly undeterred by these factors, and despite electing a historic number of women and people of color in the 2018 midterms are currently backing a septuagenarian white male as the best bet for their party in 2020.
INSIDER has been conducting a recurring series of polls over the course of the primary season. The crux of what we’re interested in is the coalitions and intra-party rivalries of the various candidates running.
We ask which candidates respondents have heard of, and then we ask which of those candidates the respondent would be satisfied with in the event they were nominated. For the rest of this piece, we’re only concerned with the most recent six polls, all of which have run since March and encompass 2,652 registered voters who said they’d vote in the Democratic primary.
This lets us learn about the overlaps in support that the candidates share. And in Biden’s case, it illustrates a fundamental advantage he has over the rest of the field.
Let’s contrast a candidate like Sen. Cory Booker and Biden.
For Booker, we can get a pretty good sense of who his supporters are also eyeing: 71% of Booker’s supporters also would be satisfied with Biden, 66% would also be satisfied with nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, 59% would also be happy with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and 51% would be satisfied with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
That’s all well and good, but more importantly we can compare those numbers to the overall performance of those candidates and analyze the difference to find out who his people tend to really like.
That 66% of Booker supporters also like Harris is remarkable, as overall only 49% of Democratic primary voters are satisfied with Harris, and based on that 17-point boost we can conclude Booker’s fans are more likely to be Harris fans than your typical Democrat.
Conversely, the 51% of Booker supporters who like Sanders is actually 2 percentage points shy of Sander’s overall performance among Democrats, indicating Sanders doesn’t have any particular traction among Booker fans, and may not be the ultimate beneficiary should Booker exit the race.
This brings us back to Biden.
INSIDER polling found 68% of likely Democratic primary voters believe Biden can beat Trump. Comparatively, just 47% of Democrats think Sanders – Biden’s closest contender – can defeat the current occupant of the White House.
But what most sets Biden apart among contenders for the 2020 nomination is the loyalty he has among his supporters.
INSIDER data shows that while the supporters of many Democratic candidates would be comfortable with a wide number of the other candidates ultimately becoming the nominee, Biden’s supporters are far more picky.
In short, Biden voters tend to be more skeptical of non-Biden candidates than your typical Democrat.
For Booker, we could find a number of other candidates where his supporters were more likely to be satisfied with them than your typical Democratic respondent. Among Biden supporters, no such other candidate existed. Every single other candidate is, polling-wise, underwater.
- Biden fans are satisfied with Sen. Sanders as nominee at a rate 4 percentage points lower than Democrats overall (49% satisfaction among Biden fans vs. 53% among all Democrats)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a 6-percentage point deficit (40% vs. 46% overall)
- Sen. Kamala Harris has a 12-percentage point deficit (37% vs. 49% overall)
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke has a 9-percentage point deficit (34% vs. 42% overall)
- Sen. Cory Booker has a 10-percentage point deficit (30% vs. 39% overall)
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a 23-percentage point deficit (29% vs. 52% overall)
- Among the remaining Democratic primary contenders we polled, the difference between the percentage of Biden fans that would be happy with them as nominee and the percentage of overall Democrats was 13 percentage points.
(Whole numbers have been rounded and may not sum)
In other words, Biden’s supporters generally want him and are generally more discontented with the remainder of the field. This is a serious advantage! It’s also probably linked to that ironclad perception among Democrats that Biden can win. Meanwhile, most of his competition have not yet persuaded the Democratic coalition that they’d be able to defeat the president.
On the other hand, that probably won’t last. With mere weeks until the first Democratic primary debates, voters have been drawing conclusions about Democrats based on sporadic televised appearances and reputation alone.
We’ll soon have the chance to set the candidates against one another on an even playing field, and there’s a pretty good chance someone comes out on the other side looking presidential. In that case, Biden’s firewall could slip.