The combination of factors is an asset for the veteran Democrat

ST. LEO, FL – A new national survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( shows that Americans rank former Vice President Joe Biden highest on the list of Democratic presidential candidates most likely to defeat President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election. The poll took into account the answers of unaffiliated voters, Democrats and Republicans. More than half the Republicans, however, maintained that none of the Democrats are likely to beat Trump.

“Despite those reservations, it is clear from our polling of Republicans that Joe Biden does have the most crossover appeal at this time,” said Frank Orlando, who directs the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and teaches political science at Saint Leo University.

“Joe Biden is widely seen as the most electable Democrat, both by Democrats and Republicans,” Orlando continued. “Electability has become such a part of his pitch that it is almost self-fulfilling at this point.” Orlando also noted, “It is also difficult to tell at this point whether voters like Joe Biden because he’s electable, or if they think he’s electable because they like him.”

The institute conducted a parallel survey in the politically significant state of Florida, which is also home to the polling institute and Saint Leo University. The name Biden resonated well there, too.

Respondents for both the national and the Florida sample were shown a list of the 20 most notable names in the Democratic field, along with an option for “none of these.” They were asked which candidates could deny president Trump a second term in office. Responses were collected online from April 22 through April 29. The highest-percentage responses are shown for the United States and Florida in the following charts. (Names not shown generated responses in the single digits.)

Question for all respondents: Whichever candidate you may support in the 2020 presidential race, which of the following Democratic candidates in your view are most likely to defeat President Trump? Please indicate all that apply.


Candidate (declared and probable) Overall % Democratic % Republican % Unaffiliated  %
Joe Biden 39.5 57.9 26.3 36.1
None of these 34.2 10.1 54.7 36.6
Bernie Sanders 18.1 28.5 9.1 16.1
Beto O’Rourke 10.4 19.9 4.0 8.2
Kamala Harris 9.7 20.3 1.8 7.4
Elizabeth Warren 9.2 13.6 1.8 10.9
Pete Buttigieg 8.8 13.0 3.3 9.8
Cory Booker 7.5 12.7 1.5 8.2



Candidate (declared and probable) Overall % Democratic % Republican % Unaffiliated %
Joe Biden 43.0 62.4 22.9 44.6
None of these 34.4 9.6 60.0 30.4
Bernie Sanders 21.4 36.5 10.3 13.0
Pete Buttigieg 14.8 18.8 9.7 18.5
Beto O’Rourke 9.0 16.2 2.9 7.6
Elizabeth Warren 9.0 13.2 4.6 8.7
Kamala Harris 8.6 14.7 2.9 8.7
Cory Booker 7.4 9.6 4.0 10.9

Democratic Party Favorites
Biden also topped the field when Democratic respondents in the survey bases were asked which candidate or candidates they could support for the party presidential nomination. Biden came in ahead of U.S. Senators Sanders (VT) and Harris (CA), and ahead of Texas politician Beto O’Rourke in the national rankings. The chart shows the top part of the field as defined by the national ranking, though the Florida ranking is similar in many cases.

Question to Democrats: Which of the following could you support in a future primary? 
Please indicate all that apply.

Candidate (declared or probable) National % Florida %
Joe Biden 53.5 55.8
Bernie Sanders 29.7 32.5
Kamala Harris 29.4 22.3
Beto O’Rourke 23.7 23.4
Cory Booker 19.3 18.8
Pete Buttigieg 19.3 25.4
Elizabeth Warren 19.0 20.3
None of these 10.4 8.6
Amy Klobuchar 10.1 9.6
Julian Castro 9.5 9.1
Kirsten Gillibrand 9.2 10.2

Orlando observed that “We see that over half of Democratic voters are comfortable supporting Biden as their preferred choice. He has enjoyed a strong bounce since declaring. It remains to be seen how long that bounce will last now that his competitors for the nomination will regard him with clear front-runner status. He seems to have made it through the inappropriate touching controversy, but he will be attacked for taking positions in the past that are not in line with where progressive Democrats are now.”

Potential GOP Defector Votes
Republicans were asked in the course of the survey if there were any Democratic candidates they could support in the 2020 election. There is interest in this question because the president’s approval rating continues in this set of poll results to sit below 50 percent. In April, in fact, the combined sum of those who approve strongly (22.2 percent) and approve somewhat (19.6 percent) of the job of the job Trump is doing is 41.8 percent. That is overshadowed by the 44.2 percent who strongly disapprove and the 10.9 percent who somewhat disapprove, a combined 55.1 percent.

When Republicans were asked if there were candidates on the Democratic side they could support, 65 percent said no. Another 18.6 percent reported they could potentially support Biden, which put the former vice president at the top of another national list within the poll. U.S. Senator Sanders came in next, potentially impressing 7.7 percent, followed by Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at 5.8 percent. Florida GOP voters reflected the same ranking in their smaller sample.

“If Joe Biden did win anywhere near the almost 20 percent of Republicans in our sample, it would be devastating for President Trump’s chances of re-election,” said Orlando, the polling institute director. “There are a few caveats to keep in mind, however. First, Joe Biden is the most well-known of the Democratic candidates, and so Republicans looking for an alternative might default to him before they’ve learned about other candidates. Second, it is one thing to say that you would be willing to defect 18 months before the election, and another thing to do it after a long general election campaign and partisan pressure. Still, this is another result that is good for Biden, and it shows that he has crossover appeal. Would that be enough to compensate for the lower enthusiasm for Biden among the progressive voters? I tend to think that those voters would hold their nose and vote for Biden, along with defecting Republicans.”

Traits of Candidates Most Important to Winning Voter Support
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute also presented respondents with a list of traits or characteristics that, if apparent about a candidate, would make that candidate more likely to attract a respondent’s support. The survey presented a list of 18 characteristics, and respondents could select as many that applied, or indicate that none on the list made sense.

The answers chosen most frequently included:

  • “Honest/believable” – In the national sample, this answer was selected most frequently, showing up in 62.4 percent of responses. In Florida, it was also on top of the list, appearing in 64.4 percent of answers.
  • “Will work with both political parties” – Across the United States, 53.7 percent said they want to see this. Slightly more than half of Florida respondents, at 51.8 percent, said this is important, but integrity was of greater importance to slightly more people.
  • “Integrity” – This value was found in 53 percent of national responses, making it the third most common answer. It was the second most common answer in Florida, appearing in 57.8 of responses.
  • “Moral” – Not quite half, but 48.2 percent of the responses collected nationally included moral, putting it in the fourth spot. In Florida, the answer appeared in 50.2 percent of responses.

Other traits that appeared in the 30-percent range nationally included some subjective elements, such as “electable,” and “personable/likable.” Trailing those, in the 20-percent range, were characteristics deduced from resumes and biographies, including “experienced in politics,” “is moderate,” “has business experience,” and “will or has already released personal income tax returns.” That last one was least important to Republicans, with responses found among 7.7 percent. But it was important to more than double that in the overall sample at 20.9 percent, and to slightly more than that among unaffiliated voters at 23.8 percent. For Democrats, it was important in 30.1 percent of responses.

Being a “conservative” was revealed as important in 18.9 percent of the national responses, and being “religious” in 11.9 percent.

Relative age—younger or older—did not generate much response, only in the single digits. Hardly any responses, 3 percent of those collected nationally, reflected a concern with candidates’ sexual orientation.

Orlando commented that, “Very few voters admit that age and sexual orientation matter in what they are looking for; it’s important to note that the percentages may be slightly higher, given that voters may not want to express socially undesirable opinions in a survey. If voters are being honest, then we can trust that the chief qualification for them is honesty.”


About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from April 22 through April 29, 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 level.

During the same time frame, the same online survey was administered to a sample of 500 residents of Florida. The Florida poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis).

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) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).

More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.