News and Commentary

Poll: White Men Lead Democratic Primary Despite Focus On Identity Politics

It’s almost as if a candidate’s skin color and genitals aren’t the main factors voters are concerned about.

A new poll from Emerson College of Democrat primary voters found that the party’s current frontrunners are all white men. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leads with 29% of the vote, with former Vice President Joe Biden trailing behind him at 24%. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows them at 9% and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and California Sen. Kamala Harris are right behind at 8% each. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren rounds out the leaders at 7%.

The remaining contenders polled at 3% and below, starting with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. In last place – behind even “Someone else,” is New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has so far built her campaign on claims that women are oppressed in America.

As my former colleague Philip Wegmann said on Twitter: “[W]hat do Mike Gravel, Tulsi Gabbard, and ‘someone else’ all have in common? They’re beating Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.”

The playing field would change, obviously, if Biden decides not to run. Sanders would pick up 31% of Biden supporters, Buttigieg would get 17%, and O’Rourke would get 13% of them.

With Biden still possibly in the race, the head-to-head matchups paint a different picture of each candidate’s potential. Biden would easily beat Trump 53% to 47%, while Sanders (51% to 48%), O’Rourke (51% to 49%), and Harris (50% to 50%) would be too close to call. Up against Buttigieg and Warren, Trump could win.

Democrats might have some problems when it comes to the issues moving forward toward election year. Voters were split on one of the top campaign topics heading into 2020: The border wall. 47% of those polled said they supported building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, while 45% opposed. Democrats are not only running against the wall, but some are also running to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Those polled also do not want currently incarcerated individuals to be allowed to vote, but 65% said that felons who had served their time should be allowed to vote.

It is interesting to see that the top candidates continue to be white men, even as the party focuses on identity politics. It is, however, still too early for anyone to be absolutely sure who the eventual nominee will be. Once the debates start, it will become clear who will remain and who will go (and who will flame out spectacularly like former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did in 2015).

This is just one poll, but it has to hurt that 11 of the 20 candidates are polling behind “Someone else.”