Sanders Rises as Primary Voters Grow More Confident About His Chances Against Trump

32% say Sanders is their first choice to take on Trump in November
Getty Images / Morning Consult illustration by Samantha Elbouez
February 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Sanders leads closest rival by 13 points, his biggest margin of the campaign.

  • 33% of black voters back Sanders, his first lead with the group in Morning Consult polling.

  • Democratic primary voters increasingly believe Sanders will be the nominee and can beat President Trump in November.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is consolidating support for the Democratic presidential nod following his victory in the Nevada caucuses, as the party’s primary voters grow more bullish on the Vermont independent’s chances of beating President Donald Trump in November.

A Morning Consult poll of 2,631 Democratic primary voters conducted Sunday, the day after Nevada held its caucuses, found 32 percent back Sanders as their first choice for president, widening the gap over former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to 13 percentage points -- his biggest national lead of the campaign. Sanders’ support is up 2 points from a Feb. 20 survey conducted the day after the party’s debate in Las Vegas and up 4 points from a Feb. 12-17 survey conducted after the New Hampshire primary.

At the same time, a separate Morning Consult survey of 954 Democratic primary voters also conducted Sunday found 34 percent said Sanders has the best chance of beating Trump, up 5 points from the post-New Hampshire poll and 11 points higher than the share who identified Bloomberg as the most electable Democratic candidate.

The latest Morning Consult tracking poll also finds Sanders leading the field among black voters for the first time as the race moves to South Carolina, the second successive state with a significant black population that former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign views as a firewall. Thirty-three percent of black Democratic primary voters said they’re backing Sanders, compared with 29 percent who said Biden, within the subsample’s 4-point margin of error.  

With Biden at his lowest point since Morning Consult began tracking the race, and no moderate contender solidifying support, Democratic primary voters are increasingly coming to terms with the possibility that Sanders could lead the ticket in November. Among the 69 percent who correctly identified Sanders as the winner in Nevada, a 43 percent plurality said they expect him to be the party’s nominee, up 11 points from the post-New Hampshire poll.

While Sanders’ early victories in the nominating contests have raised alarm bells for some Democrats who fear he could jeopardize gains in the House, chances of taking back the Senate and even of beating Trump, the party’s voters are expressing more confidence in the democratic socialist’s ability to win.

Fifty-two percent of Democratic primary voters who knew Nevada’s victor said they believe Sanders can beat Trump in November -- up 5 points from the share measured immediately following New Hampshire.

Sanders’ ascendancy also doesn’t appear to be affecting broader views of the Democratic Party. While just 33 percent of all voters agreed that the party is headed in the right direction, that figure is statistically unchanged from after Iowa, when 31 percent said the same.

The general electorate’s views on the likeliest outcome in November have also been static through the first three nominating contests: A 46 percent plurality in the latest poll said they believe Trump will defeat the Democratic nominee later this year, roughly matching responses collected after Iowa and New Hampshire.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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