Democratic Candidates

Democratic Candidates Shifting in Presidential Primary

With just over a week remaining before the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the Monmouth University Polling Institute released its latest political poll, showing that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the field of candidates, as of Jan. 22. 

According to the poll, which took information from voters that were either registered Democrats or said they tended to lean Democrat, Biden currently has support from 30 percent, followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (23 percent) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (14 percent). Other candidates included businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (9 percent), former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg (6 percent), Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (5 percent), and businessman Andrew Yang (3 percent). No other candidate registered more than 1 percent in the University poll.

Of the candidates with double-digit support, Biden and Sanders saw their polls numbers increase by 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Warren, who has dropped to third place in the race for the Democratic national, saw her poll numbers decrease by 3 percent.

Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Political Science, said that he believed Biden’s rise in the polls was due to his status as the front-runner of the race, with more voters getting behind Biden as other candidates have recently dropped out.

“He is pretty much the one that most mainstream Democrats who are involved on a day-today basis will put their weight behind,” Chapman said of Biden. “In general, you are going to see a thinning of the field at this point.”

As for Warren, who in a Monmouth poll from August was locked in a three-way tie with Biden and Sanders for the top spot in the Democratic field, Chapman stated that the Massachusetts Senator’s drop in poll numbers was “more interesting.” He attributed her polling to her being in the middle of the different ideologies in the Democratic Party, having been considered both more progressive than Biden and more moderate than Sanders. 

“Warren’s not a full-fledged supporter of some of the more progressive policies by Sanders,” Chapman said, giving Warren’s slightly more moderate stance on abolishing student loan debt as an example. “Bernie has built allegiances from his previous run for President.”

The question over whether Warren could defeat President Donald Trump in an election has become widely discussed, particularly after a CNN report that Sanders claimed in a private meeting that a woman could not win a presidential election. However, the Monmouth poll showed that approximately 74 percent of Democratic voters said they did not consider gender an important part of a candidate’s qualification for the nomination.

“It might make for great TV, but most Democrats seem immune to the ‘he said, he didn’t say’ dust-up between Sanders and Warren,” said Patrick Murray, the Director of the Monmouth Polling Institute. “Or, at least, they say that gender doesn’t matter.”

The poll also addressed concerns by Democratic voters that Iowa and New Hampshire, by having their primary elections first, have an unfair amount of influence in deciding the Democratic nominee. An additional concern is that the mostly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire do not accurately represent the Democratic base, 39 percent of which are people of color, as stated by the most recent survey by the Pew Research Center. According to the Monmouth poll, 58 percent of Democrats supported a national primary, where all states would hold primary elections on the same day. Just eleven percent believed that the current primary system, where elections are spread out over a period of several months, should remain the same.

“Most Democratic voters would like to see an overhaul of the primary calendar,” said Murray. “This view appears to be more out of a sense of fairness to the party’s diverse electorate than concerns they might have about the ability of Iowa and New Hampshire voters to properly vet the field.”

All primary election dates are decided by each respective political party, with Iowa and New Hampshire having historically been given the right to have primary elections before other states. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Democratic primary election is not until June 2, where they will be among the final states to vote in the primaries. In recent years, however, the race for the Democratic nomination has already been decided by the time people in New Jersey have the chance to vote for the candidate of their choice.

“Since Iowa and New Hampshire have the advantage of going first, they’re going to set the tone for the rest of the primaries, even if they aren’t an accurate reflection of the demographics,” Chapman said. “The media coverage of what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire is going to permeate a little bit more than it would in a primary down the road.”

Perry Merse, a first-year communication student, said that while he did not believe that all primaries should be held on a same day, he also felt that voters and the media paid too much attention to the results in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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