A new national poll released ahead the second Democratic primary debate shows former vice president Joe Biden is maintaining a commanding lead, though Trump is gaining ground in a general election match-up.
The president also enjoys a much higher job approval rating than both Democratic House leaders and the party’s far left faction of socialist congresswomen known as “The Squad.”
The Emerson Polling “2020 Democratic Primary/Caucus” survey conducted July 27-29 shows only five of the party’s more than two dozen presidential candidates are currently registering outside of the poll’s 4.2% margin of error: Biden, Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
The numbers show Biden is up, but not as much as Sanders, while Harris and Warren are down since Emerson’s last poll earlier this month.
“Biden’s numbers increased slightly to 33% from the last Emerson national poll in which Biden received 30% of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders had the largest bounce of any candidate, increasing by 5 points to 20%,” the pollster reports.
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped a point to 14% and Sen. Kamala Harris dropped 4 points to 11%. The only other candidates above 3% are Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 6% and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke at 4%.”
Those results track closely with the running average for late July polling published by Real Clear Politics.
In the Emerson poll, Biden leads all age demographics except 18-29 year olds, which support Sanders by 36%. The group is also largely responsible for Sanders’ resurgence, as the early July Emerson poll found only 24% of the age group backed the 77-year-old.
Sanders also led 2020 Democrat presidential hopefuls among primary voters who described themselves as “Very Liberal,” while Biden leads among primary voters who describe themselves as “Somewhat Liberal,” “Moderate,” or “Conservative” Democrats.
Emerson notes that President Trump’s job approval rating has ticked up since early July to 45%, and an overwhelming 91% of Republicans plan to vote for him over primary challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
The Emerson survey shows Trump losing to several Democrat opponents, though by smaller margins than in previous polls.
Currently Biden and Sanders top Trump by 2 points, 51% to 49%, while Warren is tied and Harris and Buttigieg both trail 48% to 52%.
Emerson Poll Director Spencer Kimball sees a trend.
“This is the second poll where Biden has seen his general election support dip since the first debate,” he said. “This may have to do with more liberal positions he took, but in the last 3 weeks his head to head matchups with Trump have tightened 8 points.”
When comparing job approval ratings between Trump and House Democrats, however, it’s not even close.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a 28% favorable opinion and a 46% unfavorable opinion. The House ‘squad,’ consisting of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley share this image problem,” Emerson reports.
“Ocasio-Cortez is at 30% favorable and 47% unfavorable, Tlaib is at 26% favorable and 42% unfavorable, Omar is at 25% favorable and 46% unfavorable, and Pressley is at 24% favorable and 35% unfavorable.”
Even among Democrats, only Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez enjoy at least majority support, with 51% favorable and 54% favorable, respectively.
Republican and Democrat voters, meanwhile, are split on the most important issue facing the country, with immigration topping the list for 40% of Republicans and impeachment the primary issue for 19% of Democrats. The number two issue, the top issue for 16% of Democrats, is healthcare.
The situation is pulling the Democratic Party in different directions, and the continued focus on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 isn’t helping matters, Kimball said.
“The Democrats are taking a gamble with an increased emphasis on impeachment proceedings following the Mueller hearings, considering how effective their Healthcare argument was in 2018,” he said. “It would seem to make sense to stick with that issue, but now the party seems torn between the two.”
The New York Times points out the healthcare debate among Democrat presidential contenders is also far from a unifying issue, with Biden pushing to build on the failed Obamacare system and his rivals, particularly Sanders, calling for Medicare for All.
A Marist College poll last month showed only 41% of voters support the latter, likely a main reason why Biden has attacked Sanders’ plan in recent weeks, FiveThirtyEight reports.