A Polling Dichotomy for Joe Biden

Former Vice President and 2020 Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden (D)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 28, 2019 — We covered a series of polls Friday that were projecting former Vice President Joe Biden regaining his early campaign advantage. On closer review, however, it was found that only the small sample polls with a large error factor were yielding the unusual Biden margins. The large sample surveys found a much closer split among the top three candidates: Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Several new polls were just released during the latter half of the month, all conducted after Oct. 15 with large or statistically acceptable sample sizes, yet the conclusions drawn nationally and in key states were very different.

The following table compares the analyzed polls, which are national, and two each from California and Iowa. Both of the states have unique positions in the Democratic nomination process. Iowa is the first voting state, and thus a trendsetter, while California has the largest contingent of delegates, 416 on the first ballot and 495 when the Super Delegates are added to the total.

The new Quinnipiac University survey released last Thursday (Oct. 17-21; 1,587 US registered voters; 713 likely Democratic primary voters) finds Sen. Warren capturing the national lead, with Biden and Sen. Sanders following. Mayor Pete Buttigieg breaks into double digits in a country-wide poll for the first time since early June.

National Polls Biden Warren Sanders Buttigieg Harris
Q-Poll 21 28 15 10 5
Morning Consult 30 21 18 6 6
Survey USA 32 22 17 5 7


Iowa Polls Biden Warren Sanders Buttigieg Harris
Civiqs 12 28 18 20 3
Suffolk 18 17 9 13 3


California Biden Warren Sanders Buttigieg Harris
Change Research 19 28 24 9 8
Survey USA 33 18 17 4 8

This result, however, directly conflicts with both the Morning Consult track (Oct. 16-20; 11,521 likely Democratic primary voters; online US) and Survey USA’s most recent national poll (Oct. 15-16; 1,071 US likely Democratic primary voters), both of which report consistent result spreads and a Biden edge.

Inconsistencies are also present in Iowa and California. The new Civiqs/Iowa State University poll (Oct. 18-22; 598 likely Iowa Democratic primary voters) returns the worst numbers for Biden of any poll either nationally or in a state.

Civiqs places Biden in fourth position with only a 12 percent preference factor. They show Sen. Warren leading (28 percent) with Mayor Buttigieg posting his best performance of any poll, 20 percent support, and Sen. Sanders following with 18 percent.

Yet, this conclusion substantially differs with the Suffolk University Hawkeye State poll (Oct. 16-18; 500 likely Iowa Democratic primary voters), conducted within the same sampling period, that reports the more common Biden over Warren pattern. Here, however, Buttigieg moves ahead of Sanders into third place.

A similar pattern exists in California, except in an even more stark manner. A juxtaposition regarding the lead exists with Change Research (Oct. 15-18; 1,631 likely California Democratic primary voters) projecting Sen. Warren in first place with 28 percent followed by Sanders at 24 percent, and Biden posting only 19 percent.

Survey USA (Oct. 15-16; 553 likely California Democratic primary voters), however, has a completely different take, returning Biden to a rather substantial lead over Sen. Warren (33-18 percent) with Sen. Sanders a close third (17 percent). Mayor Buttigieg does not break into double digits in either California poll.

Despite being conducted within the same time frame, the cited polls show a wide range of results. The key takeaways are that the race is still wide open; Mayor Buttigieg is showing life after a strong October debate performance; and, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) fails to break into double digits in any poll, even those that tested her own state.

Basically, we still see a relatively tight three-way race with at least the potential of one other candidate having a chance to break into the top tier. With a little over three months until voting begins, little appears ensconced within a definitive pattern.

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