Multiple Choice, Multiple Candidates

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 16, 2019 — The international polling firm YouGov for The Economist magazine just completed a major 86-question survey of 1,500 US adults (Sept. 8-10; online through an opt-in panel), 1,182 of whom are registered voters and found many interesting results. The most unique, however, might be their question asking the self-identified primary or caucus attending Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (632) just how many of their party’s presidential candidates they would consider supporting.

The purpose of the question was to test for multiple responses; therefore, most respondents named several candidates. Possibly the most interesting phase of the response process was that only one candidate exceeded 50 percent under this format, and the person receiving the 55 percent consideration factor might not be who you would name with your first guess.

Of the 20 candidates identified in the questionnaire, 10 broke into double digits. This is not particularly surprising when remembering that respondents were encouraged to give more than one candidate they are considering and, in fact, could name as many individuals as they liked.

But the candidate receiving the 55 percent mention factor was not former Vice President Joe Biden. Rather, it was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and this type of outcome could be quite significant in determining who people might ultimately support. Biden was second but failed to reach a majority even from a respondent pool who could render multiple choices. He posted a 48 percent score.

In third position was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (40 percent), so here again we see these three candidates, Warren, Biden, and Sanders, capturing the top positions by a wide margin.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was fourth with 32 percent followed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was named by 27 percent of the sample. Others in double digits were New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 18 percent, ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke recording 14 percent, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro posting 13 percent, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New York City businessman Andrew Yang both registering 11 percent under this format.

Finishing the best among the final 10 also-ran candidates was Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was mentioned by five percent of the respondents. The other nine failed to even reach a four percent consideration factor.

The multiple choice format suggests that Sen. Warren is arguably in the best position at this point, with Biden performing in somewhat disappointing fashion. For those under 10 percent, chances of any of them making a meaningful difference in this campaign are very slim to say the least.

Another interesting question dealt with disappointment. YouGov wanted to find who the Democratic respondents would not like to see as the party presidential nominee. Again, the participants could list multiple answers. In this instance, the candidates scoring the lowest percentages are in the strongest position.

First of all, 32 percent said they would not be disappointed with any of the candidates running. Of the named contenders, it is author Marianne Williamson who scored 31 percent on this question, making her the most disappointing candidate. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was second with 28 percent, Rep. Gabbard was third with 23 percent, and Biden and billionaire Tom Steyer were tied for fourth in this category with 21 percent apiece. Again, another instance of Biden showing weakness at least from this particular polling sample.

Doing the best was again Sen. Warren. Only seven percent of the respondents said they would be disappointed if she won the party nomination. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was in the second-best position with only nine percent expressing disappointment. In third, with 10 percent, is former HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

The overall conclusion from this major YouGov survey is that Sen. Warren is showing underlying strength and Biden underlying weakness. It remains to be seen if these trends continue into the first voting states, now five months away in February.

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