2019年11月22日 星期五

On Politics Poll Watch: Buttigieg Surges in Iowa

And there are reasons to believe the 2020 race could get more complicated soon.

Welcome to Poll Watch from On Politics. Every Friday, we’ll bring you the latest data and analysis to track the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Current state of the race

Arrows show recent changes in value or rank. See more detailed data here.


Who’s up? Who’s down? Here’s the latest.

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By Alexander Burns

National Political Correspondent

The race for the Democratic nomination has never been more stable, at the national level, than it has been over the past few weeks. There are now candidates clearly slotted into first through fourth place, and none of them have shifted meaningfully in our polling average since mid-to-late October. The last significant change came when Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders both picked up a few points, apparently at the cost of Elizabeth Warren. That has left Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his longstanding role as a vulnerable, resilient and more or less unmoving front-runner.

Part of the reason for the relatively static nature of the Democratic race right now may be the news media’s overwhelming focus on the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump, which has consumed political oxygen that candidates might have otherwise used to challenge one another and shake up the race.

There has been more movement recently in the early primary and caucus states, with Mr. Buttigieg surging in Iowa and overtaking Ms. Warren in the most authoritative poll there. So far, he has risen only by more incremental margins outside Iowa, and his path to the nomination appears to rely on a standout performance there that transforms the national dynamics of the race. But even Mr. Buttigieg’s relatively localized strength is already complicating the race.

There are reasons to believe the race could undergo more pronounced changes soon. Two underdog candidates, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, had strong debate performances on Nov. 20 in Atlanta, and they will be looking to translate that into momentum in Iowa. And Michael R. Bloomberg and Deval Patrick could both shake up the campaign.


At the moment, however, the primary continues to look like a three-way race at the national level, with Mr. Biden ahead, Ms. Warren not far behind him and Mr. Sanders close behind her, and with Mr. Buttigieg as a wild card in the early states.

One thing to note: Our polling chart does not include up and down arrows this week because of an adjustment in the data set. We are no longer including the Reuters/Ipsos poll, because the Democratic National Committee removed it from the list of polls that can qualify candidates to participate in debates.

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What do moderate voters want?

Do Democratic voters want a transformational, visionary candidate for president, or someone who vows to restore stability?

Is it most important to marshal the Democratic base, or to win over swing voters?

Is there really enough support for a “Medicare for all” type of health care system?

These are the kinds of existential questions gripping a Democratic Party with no clear front-runner, as it lurches toward the first contests in the 2020 primary season. And many of those questions center on one mysterious figure: the “moderate” voter.

“While the progressives have been the focus of a lot of the debates, the fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of moderates out there within the party that are struggling, trying to figure out who they’re going to vote for,” Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic strategist who advised Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said in an interview. “It’s clear to me that none of the folks in the race so far have been able to seal the deal with those voters.”

The Democratic Party has trended strongly to the left in the past two decades: At the start of the millennium, Democrats were most likely to call themselves moderates, but now more than half identify as liberal, according to Gallup polling. But a stronger ideological consolidation has happened on the Republican side: Roughly three-quarters of Republican voters now call themselves conservative.

As a result, moderates still lean Democratic just as heavily as they did 20 years ago, and they will play a central role in defining the direction of the party. They have shifted to the left on some issues, but remain center-left on others.

In 2016, Donald J. Trump became the first presidential candidate in the history of modern exit polling to win with only 40 percent support from moderate voters. But it was an unorthodox case: Both major-party candidates were disliked by a majority of voters, and 8 percent of moderates who voted in the general election didn’t vote for either of them, according to exit polls.

Today, Mr. Trump is still seen about as unfavorably by most Americans as he was in 2016, so Democrats hope that putting forth a more popular candidate will help them secure a wider majority of moderate voters, paving their path to the White House. Indeed, moderates deeply disapprove of the job Mr. Trump is doing as president: 58 percent of all moderates expressed disapproval of him in an NPR/Marist poll last month, while just 35 percent approved.

“Once we get into the general, it’s going to be incumbent on Democrats to pick up the moderate voters necessary to defeat Trump,” Mr. Manley said.

As the Democratic Party has moved to the left, moderate voters have followed the trend on issues like gun control, climate change and wealth inequality. But on other questions, such as military spending and abortion rights, they tend to hold decidedly less progressive views than their liberal counterparts.

This is particularly true when it comes to health care: By more than 20 points, they are less likely than liberal Democrats to say they would prefer a government-run health care system, a result that’s consistent across various polls.

What, then, would moderate voters actually like the next president to accomplish? By wide margins, Democratic primary voters tend to tell pollsters that they would prefer a candidate who will take a new and different approach from former President Barack Obama. But moderate and conservative Democrats are more evenly split, with much greater numbers saying they’d like to return to the way things were four years ago.

This is driven in part by black moderates’ allegiance to Mr. Obama’s legacy, pointing to a possible source of durability for Mr. Biden’s support among the crucial, African-American portion of his base.

And it also points to the changing demographics of the moderate vote itself. As the white Democratic electorate has grown more liberal and more highly educated, the party’s moderate bloc has become increasingly diverse. For the first time ever, moderate and conservative Democrats are now roughly as likely to be nonwhite as they are to be white.

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