(YouTube/Joe Biden)

Joe Biden surges in new Democratic primary polls after presidential campaign rollout

Latest surveys reveal Biden has maintained — and solidified — his position as the clear Democratic frontrunner


Shira Tarlo
April 30, 2019 3:15PM (UTC)

Joe Biden got a major boost in early polls of the Democratic primary field in the days after he jumped into the 2020 race for president.

Biden, who announced his bid last Thursday and held his first rally Monday in Pittsburgh, is now the first choice of more than a third of voters who plan to cast a ballot in their state's Democratic primary or caucus. According to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 36% of respondents named the former vice president as their top pick to run against President Trump next year. That's a six-point bump from last week's survey, when Biden led the pack with 30% support.

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Biden's short-term surge in support gives him, at least for the moment, a double-digit lead over his next-closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is at 22%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is in third at 9%, followed closely by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8%. (His surge in the polls has flattened out for now.) Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is at 7% and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, is at 5%.

The POLITICO/Morning Consult survey was conducted April 22-28 among 15,475 likely Democratic primary voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 1 percentage point.

Another poll conducted since Biden's announcement reported very similar results. In a CNN/SSRS poll out Tuesday, the former vice president extended his lead in the 20-candidate Democratic primary by 11%, further cementing his status as Democratic voters' first choice for president. Biden has the support of 39% of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters in that poll, more than double the support of Sanders, who sits at 15%. Warren is in third with 8%, followed by Buttigieg at 7%, O'Rourke at 6% and Harris at 5%.

The CNN/SSRS poll was conducted April 25-28 among a random national sample of 1,007 adults reached on landlines or cell phones by a live interviewer. Margin of error is much larger than in the Morning Consult poll, at plus or minus 3.8 points for the full sample and plus or minus 5.9 points for the subsample of 411 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters.

What both polls would seem to confirm is that Biden has maintained — and solidified — his position as the clear Democratic frontrunner since he jumped into the 2020 race. He has led the Democratic pack in nearly every early poll taken over a period of many months. Unlike nearly all of his rivals except Sanders, Biden's spike in support has not corresponded with a rise in name recognition.

As a major figure in American politics since he was elected to the Senate in 1972, Biden has near-universal name recognition as the former second-in-command to a largely popular president. Nine in 10 likely Democratic primary voters have a positive opinion of the former vice president: Seventy-six percent view him favorably, while 14% view him unfavorably, according to the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Still, Biden's name ID doesn't mean he's unbeatable — the large mass of candidates running below 10 percent in the polls have time to grow their campaigns.

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Biden's popularity has apparently been unaffected by reports that multiple women have come forward with allegations that he had inappropriately touched them. (No one has accused Biden of sexual harassment or sexual assault, in sharp distinction to the allegations made against President Trump.) The former vice president released a video earlier this month to contain the mounting controversy, in which he did not directly apologize to the women who have accused him of unwanted contact but vowed to "be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future."

Biden has also come under intense scrutiny over his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when law professor Anita Hill testified to the panel that she had been sexually harassed by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He has made several conditional apologies for his handling of Hill's testimony and said he regrets Hill didn't get "the kind of hearing she deserved." Hill has said she is not convinced that Biden has truly taken responsibility for his conduct at the hearings.

None of these factors have apparently diminished Biden's support among women and African Americans, the Democratic Party's key constituencies. In fact, Biden's support among women overall surged by eight points in the last week in the Politico/Morning Consult poll, to 38 percent, propelled by a seven-point bump among white women (to 36%) and an even more impressive 10-point jump among black women, to 47%. For the first time in that weekly poll, more women than men identified Biden as their first choice.

Biden's surge in support could be temporary, similar to those experienced by both Sanders and Harris after they announced their 2020 campaigns. Next week's polls will be eagerly anticipated, both by Biden's campaign and by his numerous Democratic opponents.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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