The Former VP Is the One Most Often Named as Having a Chance to Defeat President Trump


ST. LEO, FL – New results from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( show that Democrats surveyed nationally still favor former Vice President Joe Biden more than the multiple other candidates for the party presidential nomination to oppose President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election.

The poll was conducted from November 13 through November 18 among 1,000 total respondents nationally. With one question, though—which declared or probable Democratic candidate they could support in a primary—responses were collected only from the survey base’s 315 self-identified Democrats. (The overall response base, to be representative, also includes 275 Republicans, 371 independents, 15 voters from other parties, and 24 voters who are unsure.) The Democratic respondents were allowed to make multiple selections.

Under these circumstances, the response tally favors Biden, at 54.6 percent. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts follows at 30.5 percent, then U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 27.6 percent.

Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando explained that because respondents were able to name multiple candidates rather than just one, the resulting answers show “that the former vice president has a breadth of support across the Democratic primary field.” His rivals for the party nomination “may be underestimating how strong he is as a second and third choice, and this might become more apparent as candidates drop out of the race.”

The field has narrowed a bit with U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ announcement Tuesday, (December 3) that she is giving up her campaign. Harris followed the top three in the poll question with 21 percent of responses collected.

In the next tier, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, accounts for 19.7 percent; U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey follows at 15.6 percent; and late entrant, billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has support from 13.7 percent. Bloomberg edged out U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, whose showing was 10.2 percent.

“Mayor Pete seems to be the candidate with the highest chance of jumping into the upper tier,” Orlando said, “but he needs to broaden his support level. Cory Booker faces the opposite problem. He’s not doing poorly in this metric, but nobody seems to support him as their first choice.”

Orlando added that Bloomberg appears to have benefitted from “oversized coverage from the press” and plenty of cash for advertising, but “he’s still not anywhere near the top of the Democratic list, and it’s unclear what his path forward is without competing in the early states.”

All other candidate results were in the single digits.

A very recently announced candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, did not enter the race soon enough to be incorporated into the survey’s list of choices.

Strongest opposition for Trump

All 1,000 respondents were asked—no matter which candidate they would support—to name the Democratic hopefuls they consider most likely to be able to defeat President Trump. They could name all the candidates they consider viable. Biden again led the list of responses, with 40.5 of the answers assigned to the Delaware Democrat.

“Whether it’s true or not, voters seem to think Biden is the most electable in a race with President Trump,” Orlando observed. “This narrative is propping up his support, especially among African-American voters.”

The second-most common answer to the question was “none of these,” from 17.8 percent of the survey base. Sanders almost tied that amount with 17.4 percent. The pattern was the same in Saint Leo’s April 2019 survey, with Biden first place, and attracting about the same percentage.

GOP voters consulted on crossover possibilities

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute also wanted to know whether Republicans among the survey base thought they might support any of the Democrats running. When given a slate of the 19 declared and probable candidates at the time, and the option to name more than one of them, 63.6 percent of the responses instead came in as “none of these.”

Biden came in second place. The percentage of responses allowing for a possible vote for him is at 13.8 percent, followed by 10.5 percent of responses assigned to Bloomberg. That result is down for Biden from April 2019, when 18.6 percent of the responses to the same question named him.

“It’s not a surprise to see Joe Biden’s support slipping here as the campaign drags on,” Orlando, the political scientist, said. “One, Vice President Biden has been nudged a bit further to the left on issues like abortion during the process of the primary. Two, most Republicans who could have supported Biden would rather do this in theory than in practice. As we move closer to Election Day, I would assume that this number continues to decline.”

Qualities that voters want to see

Another list of choices the polling institute presented to respondents is comprised of traits or characteristics they would like to see in potential presidential candidates. The list has 21 entries, and respondents could choose as many as they pleased, or “none of these,” which came in at less than 4 percent.

In declining order of popularity, “honest/believable” was the top vote-getter with 64.4 percent; followed by “integrity” at 53.3 percent. There were two more traits appearing in nearly half of the responses: “moral” with mentions from 49.9 percent; and “will work with both parties” appearing in 49.5 percent of responses.
All these were mentioned more frequently than traits such as “personable/likable,” “electable,” or “experienced in politics,” among others.

Orlando said sometimes these answers do not measure up to reality. “Voters say they want these traits, but it is clear that they aren’t willing to hold candidates accountable. And voters are willing to see these traits reflected in the candidates they prefer.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from November 13 through November 18, 2019, 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 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: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).

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