By Jim EllisDec. 18, 2018 — A pair of Democratic presidential primary polls were just released — one with a national respondent universe, and the other for the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus. In both, former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden is staked to a lead. The most disappointing performer appears to be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who settles into middle-of-the-pack status in both surveys.
CNN conducted the national poll (conducted by the SSRS firm; Dec. 6-9; 463 Democrats and independent-leaning Democrats). For two reasons, this survey is of little statistical relevance. First, the national sample of only 463 individuals is very low, thus leading to a huge error factor. Second, as we know, the presidential nomination process is decided by winning delegate support in every state and territory, thus monitoring a candidate’s national standing, while being of media interest, actually provides little in the way of tangible political value.
The Des Moines Register/CNN Mediacom Iowa poll (conducted by Selzer & Company; Dec. 10-13; 455 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) is the more relevant of the two studies since it previews the Iowa Caucus, which is responsible for apportioning the state’s nominating delegates and tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020.
In the national poll, Biden places first with 30 percent preference followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) who posts 14 percent. These are the only two potential candidates in double figures.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) is third at nine percent, with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Secretary of State and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry at five percent, four percent, and four percent, respectively. Then comes Sen. Warren with only three percent support. Joining her at that level are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The lower tier, former Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Gov. Jay Inslee (WA) and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (VA) are all just barely on the board at one percent apiece. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. John Delaney (MD), and billionaire Tom Steyer all failed to register any national support.
The most significant changes detected in this poll are O’Rourke’s movement into the first tier — more than doubling his support from the Oct. 4-7 CNN poll, from four to nine percent — and Sens. Warren and Harris dropping back. Both women fell five percentage points, which is more than half of their support as projected in the previous October CNN poll.
As in the national poll, the Iowa numbers place ex-VP Biden as the candidate garnering the most support. Here, Biden posts a substantial 32-19 percent lead over Sen. Sanders, who again places second. And Rep. O’Rourke is again the third place finisher, but this time with 11 percent support.
In both the national and Iowa polls, Sen. Warren drops below the double-digit percentage mark, but she fares slightly better in the Hawkeye State at eight percent. Sens. Harris and Booker come next in Iowa with five percent and four percent, respectively, ahead of Bloomberg and Sen. Klobuchar, who each record three percent support. Sen. Brown, Gov. Hickenlooper, Castro, and Rep. Delaney all register just one percent preference within the state cell sample.
Naturally, much will change before anybody casts a vote. But, these early polls give us a sense as to who has the stronger political bases in the earliest phase, which may influence certain individuals to either become an official candidate or not.