Exclusive Survey: Big Moves Among Early State Democrats

October 14, 2019

This year, Firehouse Strategies has been partnering with the data analytics team at 0ptimus to learn more about what early state primary voters think about their presidential candidates and key issues. Our fourth wave of polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina was conducted between Tuesday, October 8th and Thursday, October 10th, and the results are summarized below.

Key Findings:

  • Elizabeth Warren Continues to Surge. In July, we found Elizabeth Warren slightly ahead of Joe Biden for the first time in our polling series. This month, Warren has increased her lead there and has gained the lead in New Hampshire. In Iowa, Warren leads Biden 25% to 22%, with Pete Buttigieg surging into 3rd place at 17%. Bernie Sanders, who has consistently been a top tier candidate in our polling, dropped to 4th place with only 5% of the vote. Our survey was in the field a week after Sanders’ hospitalization, and 4 days after his campaign revealed that he had a heart attack. In New Hampshire, Warren’s lead is larger, with 25% of respondents supporting her and 18% supporting Biden. Sanders is in 3rd with 9% of the vote. South Carolina continues to be strong for Biden, as he find him at 32% compared to 16% for Warren and 8% for Sanders. Nonetheless, this still represents a tightening from prior surveys.

KEY POINT: Biden has lost his lead in the first two voting states to Warren, and Buttigieg is surging in Iowa.

  • Impeachment Calls Becoming Overwhelming. The Ukraine scandal has increased support for impeachment significantly in the past 3 months. In July, in the wake of Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill, we found support for impeachment among Democratic primary voters at 60% in Iowa, 54% in New Hampshire, and 62% in South Carolina. This month, support for impeachment stands at 79% in Iowa, 75% in New Hampshire, and 72% in South Carolina. Additionally, majorities in all three states believe that Donald Trump should not only be impeached, but also imprisoned. 53% of respondents in Iowa, 50% in New Hampshire, and 54% in South Carolina say Donald Trump should be in jail.

KEY POINT: Most Democratic voters think Donald Trump belongs in prison, not the Oval Office.

  • Climate Change and Health Care are Democrats’ Top Priorities. When asked what the most important issue in the United States is today, about half of Democrats say climate change or health care is their top priority. In Iowa, 28% say climate change, 26% say health care, 10% say gun control, 10% say the economy. In New Hampshire, 31% say climate change, 20% say health care, 11% say immigration, and 8% say the economy. And in South Carolina, 25% say health care, 17% say climate change, 16% say gun control, and 12% say the economy. Student loans and reproductive rights are the top issues for 5% or less of voters in each state.

KEY POINT: Climate change has slowly grown in prominence as an issue in the United States, and is now a top tier issue for Democrats. In 2018, Democrats campaigned on health care, and this remains a top priority for their voters.

  • …And Divisions Exist on Whether House Dems are Doing Enough on Health Care. Majorities of Democratic voters in each state (59% in Iowa, 55% in New Hampshire, and 65% in South Carolina) believe Democrats in the House should be focusing more on passing health care legislation. Ironically, compared to the post-2010 second-guessing of whether using political capital on Obamacare was a smart call, Democrats now may be penalized for focusing on non-health care items in today’s environment. Over 60% of early state voters say that they would be disappointed if Democrats fail to pass health care legislation, including roughly 30% in each state which say they would be very disappointed.

KEY POINT: Democratic voters want to see Congressional Democrats do more to deliver on health care promises.

  • What about Hillary or Michelle? At this stage, Democrats seem content with the Democratic field for president, and are not looking for a surprise entrance nor to conjure nostalgia from 2016. Strong majorities in each state do not want Hillary Clinton to be involved in the 2020 race, with only 18% in Iowa, 19% in New Hampshire, and 29% in South Carolina saying that she should play an active role. Additionally, most Democrats do not want Michelle Obama to jump into the race at this stage; only 36% of respondents in Iowa, 34% in New Hampshire, and 39% in South Carolina say they do.

KEY POINT: Most Democratic voters are not missing Hillary Clinton or hoping to enlist Michelle Obama. 72% of voters in these three early states don’t want to see Clinton raise her profile in 2020, and 58% don’t want Michelle Obama to run.


Methodology Summary:

The Firehouse/0ptimus survey was conducted 10/8 through 10/10 and interviewed 1,765 likely 2020 Democratic presidential primary voters in Iowa (N = 548), New Hampshire (N = 610), and South Carolina (N = 607) via live landline (IA: 219; NH: 225; SC: 239), live cellphone (IA: 107; NH: 113; SC: 116), and text messaging (IA: 222; NH: 272; SC: 252). Likely voters were identified as those who voted in either the 2016 or 2018 Democratic primaries plus additional voters who are expected to vote in the 2020 presidential primary as determined by 0ptimus turnout modeling. Each state sample was weighted by age group, gender, and political party to reflect the demographic characteristics of the likely voter population within each state. Margins of error vary by question and segment but is generally ± 3.6% in IA, ± 3.7% in NH, and ± 3.7% in SC for the topline results.

Our full methodology report is available on our GitHub repository.

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