Exclusive Survey: Early State Democrats Moving Left

July 29, 2019

Key Findings:

  • Elizabeth Warren Surging. For the first time in our polling series, former Vice President Joe Biden is no longer in the lead in the Iowa Caucus. Instead, our data shows a tight race between Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren with Warren slightly ahead. Our unique survey methodology finds that Biden leads among live call respondents, but Warren leads among our text message sample. (Further details can be found in our methodology statement here.) In New Hampshire and South Carolina, Biden continues to lead the pack, but his lead has softened considerably since our May survey. South Carolina continues to be Biden’s strongest state with Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris each running nearly twenty points behind.  While the field is divided, Democratic primary voters are united in what they want out of the next president: someone who can beat Trump, bring stability back to the presidency, and someone who is not afraid to work across the aisle.

KEY POINT: Democrats remain united in what they’re for in their next nominee but divided on who it should be, with Biden’s lead declining over the past 3 months.

  • Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris Lead the “Second Choice Primary.” We asked Democratic primary voters to tell us who their second choice was behind their favored nominee. In each of the three states, likely primary voters reported Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren as their favored second choices. As we see in a closer look at Iowa, Warren remains a favorable second choice option to supporters of Sanders, Harris, and Biden while Harris is a popular second choice to Warren and Buttigieg voters.
  • Growing Calls for Impeachment: As Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill last week, we asked Democratic primary voters whether the Special Counsel investigation should lead to President Trump’s impeachment. Voters in IA (60%), NH (54%), and SC (62%) agreed that the House of Representatives should impeach, representing an upward trend since our May survey (in IA a 10 percentage point increase, in NH 8 points, and in SC 3 points).

KEY POINT: Democratic grassroots support is growing for impeaching President Trump.

  • Interest In Democratic Debates Remains High:This week, 20 of the Democratic candidates will once again face each other on stage over two nights, and Democratic voters will be paying close attention. 70% of those surveyed in New Hampshire and 72% in South Carolina say they will tune in, and Iowans are even more invested, with 80% saying they will watch. Younger voters in Iowa (83%) and New Hampshire (76%) are especially energized to watch, while voters over 55 in South Carolina (73%) are the most enthused there.

KEY POINT: A lot of early state Democrats will be watching this week’s debates. This is a make-or-break moment for many candidates.

  • Minimum Wage Raises and Medicare-for-All Lead Among Favored Policies. About seven in ten Democratic early state primary voters support the Fight for $15/hour even when presented with information about the costs to private businesses and state and local governments. Similarly, over 60% of Democratic primary voters support universal government health care programs such as single-payer or Medicare-for-all. However, among those Medicare-for-all supporters, more Democratic primary voters oppose removing private insurance than support it.  Voters also support the addition of two more seats to the Supreme Court to offset Trump’s conservative appointees in IA (51% yes to 37% no), NH (47% yes to 40% no), and SC (58% yes to 30% no).

KEY POINT: The 2020 Democratic presidential primary electorate is very liberal, with voters supporters single-payer health care, higher minimum wages, and stacking the Supreme Court with liberal justices.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Supported by Voters. After becoming a star in the Democratic Party following her historic primary victory last election cycle, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to enjoy high favorable ratings among Democratic primary voters In IA (net favorable: 49%), NH (32%), and SC (31%). Nevertheless, following a week of public feuding between the New York congresswoman and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, our samples in IA (63%), NH (65%), and SC (57%) agree that Pelosi has not routinely singled out women of color in Congress as members of the progressive “Squad” have suggested.  

KEY POINT: AOC is a star among Democratic primary voters, but Pelosi emerged unscathed from her recent conflict with the New Yorker.


Methodology Summary: The Firehouse/0ptimus survey was conducted 7/23 through 7/25 and interviewed 1771 likely 2020 Democratic presidential primary voters in Iowa (N = 630), New Hampshire (N = 587), and South Carolina (N = 554) via live landline (IA: 228; NH: 221; SC: 252), live cellphone (IA: 118; NH: 128; SC: 118), and text messaging (IA: 284; NH: 238; SC: 184). 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 ± 3.3% in IA, ± 3.3% in NH, and ± 3.8% in SC for the topline results.

Our full methodology report and additional crosstabs are available on our GitHub repository.

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