Debates Begin; Some Polls Tighten

By Jim Ellis

June 28, 2019 — Several polls were released just before the presidential debate series began and we see some inconsistency. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads in the most recent national surveys, but by varying margins.

The closest poll comes from YouGov (June 22-25; 522 likely US Democratic primary voters) and finds Biden’s lead over Sen. Elizabeth Warren to be 24-18 percent. In a close third place is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 15 percent.

All other candidates are in single digits. Those who have been experiencing a recent downward trend, Sen. Kamala Harris, and ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke, again posted poor support scores, this time seven and three percent, respectively. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been polling inconsistently in recent surveys. Here, we see downward movement, as he registers only five percent support, a polling range that has also been detected in other late June polling.

YouGov also finds two of the lower-tier candidates performing a bit better in this survey. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reaches three percent national support, and Sen. Cory Booker posts two percent support. All others are at one percent or below.

But the Morning Consult data, with a much larger survey sample, tells a much different story. Their poll (June 19-26; 7,150 likely US Democratic primary voters via automated response device) detects a much larger Biden lead. The results find the former vice president at 35 percent support with Sen. Sanders in second place – as he has been in most national polls – with 18 percent, and Sen. Warren in third at 12 percent. Like in the YouGov poll, only the top three finishers posted double-digit support numbers.

The lower tier is very similar to the YouGov results sans Gabbard. They find Sen. Harris (six percent), Mayor Buttigieg (six percent), O’Rourke (four percent), and Sen. Booker (three percent) comprising a second tier. All the rest are at one percent or less.

The HarrisX survey (June 24-26; 892 self-identified Democratic registered voters) brandished a middle-sized sample with commensurate results. HarrisX also finds Biden leading the Democratic race, but his 29 percent support factor falls virtually evenly between what was found in YouGov and Morning Consult.

In this poll, it is Sen. Sanders who places second, with 17 percent support, again ahead of Sen. Warren, who drops below 10 percent to post a nine percent preference factor. The second tier of Harris (six percent), O’Rourke (four percent), and Buttigieg (three percent) are consistent with the other polls, but here Washington Gov. Jay Inslee breaks the one percent barrier to register two percent support.

What we are seeing from these and other polls is that clearly, Biden and Sens. Sanders and Warren comprise the top tier. Sen. Harris, ex-Rep. O’Rourke, and Mayor Buttigieg are in the secondary sector, with all of the others looking to be also-rans in the early going.

The debates may make a difference for some of the candidates. Mayor Buttigieg needs to cement the gains he’s made with strong debate performances. The forums also provide those in the lower tier some needed national exposure to possibly begin to move up.

With 12 debates scheduled throughout this year and next, several contenders will have the opportunity of gaining support. But many in the lower tier will have to move fast. To qualify for the September forum, candidates will be required to have over 130,000 campaign donors and reach two percent support in previously designated polls. These requirements could be too much for many, since only six had reached these requirement plateaus when the new qualifications were announced earlier this month. Therefore, the Miami and Detroit debates occurring now and at the end of July are, in fact, do-or-die events for many of the lower-tier contenders.

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