• Respondents Favor Biden and Sanders With Bloomberg Catching Up
  • Hypothetical head-to-head races show public leaning toward Democrats over Trump
  • Significant percentage of voters still unsure about general election scenarios

SAINT LEO, FL – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden emerged as the top two most popular presidential primary choices among Democrats polled nationally by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu), with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in third place.

Respondents nationally were asked which candidate they had already voted for in their state primary or would support if the primary had not yet occurred. Most primaries had not yet occurred when the results were collected, from February 17 through February 22. Sanders was chosen by 25.8 percent of respondents, and Biden was named by 24.5 percent, which is essentially a tie. Bloomberg was selected by 16.1 percent, while other candidates trailed in single digits.

The institute also polled a separate sample in Florida, where the primary election will be held March 17, and the same three candidates dominated. But Bloomberg, with support of 25.1 percent of Democratic likely voters polled, and Biden, with 24.6 percent, were tied at the top in the Sunshine State. Sanders attracted support of 16.7 percent of those answering. The now former candidate Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., followed with 11.4 percent, with the other candidates trailing in tin the single digits, and 7.3 percent unsure.

Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute,

observed that the Democratic primary race “is a very dynamic process, and our respondents answered before the huge win for former Vice President Biden in South Carolina on February 29, and the subsequent decisions by Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer to leave the race. This probably means that former VP Biden is actually in a stronger position now than our poll shows. The ‘anybody-but-Sanders’ Democratic voters may be coalescing around a single candidate in a way that the ‘NeverTrump’ Republicans never did in 2016, but we will know a lot more after Super Tuesday.”

The full results appear in descending order of the percentage results by the national sample.*


Candidates National % February 2020 Florida % February 2020
Bernie Sanders 25.8 16.7
Joe Biden 24.5 24.6
Michael Bloomberg 16.1 25.1
Elizabeth Warren 8.7 7.0
Unsure 8.1 7.3
Pete Buttigieg 5.5 11.4
None of these 3.9 1.2
Amy Klobuchar 3.2 4.7
Tulsi Gabbard 2.3 1.5
Tom Steyer 1.9 0.6

*The number of Democrats polled nationally was 310, and in Florida was 342.

In a separate question, Democrats were asked which Democratic candidates they could support in a future primary, and multiple responses were accepted. Under that scenario, Sanders appeared in 45.8 percent of responses nationally and 39.8 percent in Florida; Biden’s named appeared in 39.7 percent of responses nationally and 51.2 percent of cases in Florida. Bloomberg was in 32.9 percent of national lists and 45 percent in Florida.

The next candidate named from the crowded field was U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, in 24.8 percent of cases nationally and 28.1 percent in Florida.

GOP respondent reaction to the Democratic field

Republicans in the survey—both nationally and in Florida—were also asked about whether they could support any of the Democratic candidates during the general election against President Donald J. Trump. In both cases, more than half of the respondents said they could not support a Democrat.

Democratic candidates that GOP respondents* said they could support National % February 2020 Florida % February 2020
None of these 51.9 59.0
Michael Bloomberg 17.0 17.1
Joe Biden 14.1 11.1
Pete Buttigieg 13.3 7.9
Amy Klobuchar 10.0 10.2
Bernie Sanders 10.0 8.9
Tulsi Gabbard 7.0 5.1
Tom Steyer 4.8 4.1
Elizabeth Warren 4.4 6.7

*There were 270 Republican respondents nationally, and 315 in Florida.

“Unsurprisingly,” Orlando said, “Republicans are most likely to support the candidate— Bloomberg—who used to be a Republican, but just because they display a willingness, doesn’t mean that they will jump ship in these numbers. President Trump has regularly enjoyed very high approval from GOP voters—83 percent in this survey. Still, the Bloomberg and Biden campaigns are wise to use data like this that displays there strength on the electability dimension.”

Viability as a Trump opponent compared

The survey also asked all respondents—Democrats, Republicans, and independents—nationally and in Florida, to consider which candidate they consider most likely to be able to defeat Trump, regardless of which candidate they personally prefer. Since this question was asked of respondents regardless of their party affiliation, the full sample of 1,000 people nationally and 900 in Florida are represented in these results.

The same three top names appeared, after a response of “Unsure.”

Candidates judged by the general survey base to be able to beat President Trump National February 2020 Florida February 2020
Unsure 29.1 29.8
Michael Bloomberg 20.9 27.6
Bernie Sanders 16.4 13.2
Joe Biden 14.0 13.7
Pete Buttigieg 7.1 5.4
Amy Klobuchar 4.0 3.7
Tulsi Gabbard 3.3 1.9
Elizabeth Warren 2.9 3.6
Tom Steyer 2.3 1.2


Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Orlando noted that with this question “there is a sense that this just measures who voters prefer to win, and that they make electability arguments after settling on their candidate. But one candidate who is performing beyond his polling here is Michael Bloomberg. And it appears that this is coming from independent and Republican voters.”

Specific head-to-head race possibilities measured

The polling institute asked each respondent, both nationally and in Florida, to indicate how they would vote in the presidential election if Trump were to face certain Democratic candidates. The questions were presented in sequence, so that respondents answered how they would vote in a Trump versus Sanders race, or Trump versus Biden race. There were six potential match-ups so that respondents were also asked about potential matchups with Bloomberg, with Warren, with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, and with Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who exited the race on March 1.

The findings appear below, with the national results first.

National Survey Response – Percentages

Matchup Donald Trump Joseph Biden Unsure
39.4 46.8 13.8


Matchup Donald Trump Bernie Sanders Unsure
37.2 49.1 13.7


Matchup Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Unsure
40.6 42.7 16.7


Matchup Donald Trump Pete Buttigieg Unsure
37.4 45.8 16.8


Matchup Donald Trump Amy Klobuchar Unsure
37.4 43.9 18.7


Matchup Donald Trump Michael Bloomberg Unsure
34.0 50.0 16.0


Florida Survey Response – Percentages

Matchup Donald Trump Joseph Biden Unsure
40.3 51.2 8.4


Matchup Donald Trump Bernie Sanders Unsure
40.2 48.8 11.0


Matchup Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Unsure
42.0 44.3 13.7


Matchup Donald Trump Pete Buttigieg Unsure
40.1 45.2 14.7


Matchup Donald Trump Amy Klobuchar Unsure
41.0 43.2 15.8


Matchup Donald Trump Michael Bloomberg Unsure
36.3 51.6 12.1


Orlando noted the evident pattern of respondents preferring other candidates over President Trump could shift. “It’s important to remember that these percentages are before a general election campaign has taken place, and it is safe to say that those Democratic margins over President Trump will decline when they are the subject of negative advertisements day after day. Still, we can see the relative strength of the Democratic frontrunners plus Michael Bloomberg in this measure. It remains to be seen whether the last few rough weeks have stopped his momentum leading into Super Tuesday.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from February 17 through February 22, 2020, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The Florida sample was conducted during the same time period among a base of 900 likely voters, using the same online instrument. The results from the sample of 900 Florida respondents has an associated margin for error of +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence level.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts:

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 32 education centers in seven states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.