The coronavirus pandemic has put the 2020 Presidential Election in the backseat. While Joe Biden’s sweep of victories on Super Tuesday dominated headlines at the beginning of this month, the Democratic Primaries are now on pause––with several elections now postponed until this summer. For now, the former Vice President remains the leading contender to win the Democratic Party’s nominee, but the current crisis may provide an opportunity for Senator Bernie Sanders to stage a comeback given the renewed relevancy of his signature policy ‘Medicare for All’ and his critique of the unbalanced American economy.
We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies decided to take a look further ahead, directly towards the November contest. In our latest poll of 1,500 respondents, conducted on Monday, we asked respondents who they would vote for in a direct contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump and in a direct contest between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
When taking into account respondents’ stated likelihood to vote and excluding those who said they don’t know how they will vote, we found Biden to hold an 8% lead and Sanders to hold a 7% lead over Trump.
These numbers are roughly consistent to other published polling that came out this month. A recent Fox News’ poll of registered voters, for instance, put Biden at a 9% lead over Trump. At the same time, it is important to note that in a Fox News poll in March 2016, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump by an even greater 11% margin.
Such numbers could suggest that all polls may be underestimating the level of support for Trump (respondents may be unwilling to share their actual voting intentions or the weightings applied to make a poll more representative of the general population may be inaccurate).
Or they could suggest that President Trump still has the time and ability to turn around the polling numbers, as he did four years ago. Indicative of this possibility, our poll suggests around 9% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 currently intend to vote for the Democratic nominee. In that case, those are the voters Trump will need to win back in the coming months, if he is to have any chance of winning re-election.
Let us take a look at our results without taking into account likelihood to vote and without excluding those who say they do not know how they will vote.
In the Trump versus Sanders scenario compared to the Trump versus Biden scenario, ten more respondents––out of 1,500––said they would vote for Trump and two more respondents said they would vote for Sanders. Altogether, that lack of substantial change overall suggests, on the surface, little to no difference for voters between the two Democratic candidates still in competition for the nomination.
Looking more carefully, however, we can see that 3% of those who say they would vote for Trump and 22% of those who say they do not know how they would vote in a Biden versus Trump election say they would otherwise vote for Sanders in a Sanders versus Trump election. Similarly, 4% of those who say they would vote for Trump and 24% of those who say they do not know how they would vote in a Sanders versus Trump election say they would otherwise vote for Biden in a Biden versus Trump election. There is clearly a difference, if a small one at that, between the two potential election contests.
Such miniscule differences are, in fact, within the margin of error (2.57%) of our poll, so it is difficult to determine how much the overall picture would change. For supporters of Joe Biden, that means concerns that a substantial number of supporters for Senator Sanders will not vote for a nominee other than Sanders may largely be unfounded. For supporters of Bernie Sanders, that means concerns about Sanders’ lack of so-called ‘electability’ could be overstated.
What may be interesting is that a Trump versus Sanders contest may include a somewhat higher proportion of those who are less likely to vote.
In any case, it is only March and these numbers may still change significantly, especially given the current coronavirus crisis. In fact, a majority of respondents to our polls suggested that they would support both the delay of Primary Elections and, under certain circumstances, the Presidential Election itself if warranted.
So, let us conclude cautiously that it is early days and there is a long, long way to go.