Hi! We’re going to do something we shouldn’t. Use a single poll to answer questions about voter support. Partly I’m lazy. Also, I’m guilty of confirmation bias. The new Quinnipiac poll looks very plausible, and it’s a well-respected survey. Plus the numbers are going to let me work with a narrative that makes sense.
Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, and before we talk about Bloomberg, a few key notes:
Biden/Sanders voters are more certain than Warren/Buttigieg supporters
This was very striking. As is often the case, many voters aren’t locked in yet. Exactly half of Biden (48/49) or Sanders (49/50) supporters are positive they’re done shopping. The average voter has another 3 to 4 months before they reach their polling place, so this is a good number.
However, less than a quarter of Warren supporters (23/76) have made up their mind, and Mayor Pete’s followers are even less certain (17/83.) If you take their top line support and calculate against this, it means this is the guaranteed support for each of the Top Four:
That’s plenty of room for Bloomberg to make an impact. It’s also a reminder that Biden is in the best position. He has more positive support than his next three competitors combined (15/14.)
Warren found her floor
Quinnipiac has been kind to Warren over the past several months, normally giving her results at or near the top of her range. She peaked at 30% in a survey published October 14. By November 26, she dipped to 14%. This was a sign of impending doom, soon confirmed by state polling showing her struggling in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The December 10 results had her at 15%, but trailing Sanders for the first time. Now, she’s back up to 17% and a point ahead of her progressive competitor. Sure, it’s all inside the margin of error. And Bernie is still in front of her in the national and early state poll averages. But small progress is still progress. And more importantly, she’s not still dropping.
Mayor Pete peaked last month
On the other hand, it’s becoming clear Buttigieg reached a temporary ceiling last month. In the November 26 poll, he was at 16%, in second place. The two December surveys both have him at 9%. This isn’t a fluke. In other recent national polls, he’s scored at 8% (Emerson), 8% (Morning Consult), 8% (Suffolk), 7% (Fox News) and 9% (IBD.) I’m ignoring a 13% result from Marist, in a poll taken about a week ago, but that one is the outlier at the moment.
He’s still ahead of Bloomberg in each of these. And all things being equal, you’d rather be the guy who is near or in the lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire, even if the other guy has endless money. Several of the results are within a couple of points though, and it got me thinking we should see if there are any noticeable differences in who prefers them.
Democrats v. Dem-Leaning Independents
Buttigieg has an even split. He’s at 9% with both. Bloomberg is at 6% among registered Democrats, but 12% with Dem-Leaning Independents. If we wind up having reason to care about Amy Klobuchar down the road, she’s the inverse, at 4% with Democrats, and only 1% among Independents.
Some states restrict their primary or caucus to registered Democrats only. Many allow Independents to choose whichever side they want. A few even allow registered Republicans to participate. For now, based on other surveys, it looks like Tulsi Gabbard is the candidate most popular with actual 2016 Trump voters. In states with Independents who voted for Hillary Clinton or stayed home, Bloomberg will have an edge.
Each of these semi-moderate choices does better with older voters. Klobuchar is basically a zero with voters under 50. It’s hard to see how she can compete unless or until this changes. Buttigieg does best (16%, 2nd place) with voters 65+, and worst (2%) with the 18-34 bucket. He’s fine with older Millennials and younger GenXers, getting 11% from those 35-49.
With both of those groups, Mayor Pete has double Bloomberg’s support. However, when voters are 50-64, they each garner 9%, and the youngest group prefers Bloomberg, giving him 5%. Remember, the most stubborn demographics so far are age-related. Sanders is at 30% with the youngest voters and 6% with the oldest.
Black voters like Mike (at least a little)
We know all about Buttigieg’s issue. This hasn’t changed. Quinnipiac has him at 13% with white voters, 2% among African Americans. Klobuchar is right with him at 4%/0%. Meanwhile, Bloomberg is at 7%/7%. I’ve seen similar results in other surveys, so this is at least mostly legit.
You might think, meh, 7%, whatever. Very few candidates have reached upper single digits so far. If Kamala Harris was there, she might not have dropped out. Cory Booker is at 2%. Sure, nobody is catching Biden here, he’s at 42% with African Americans. But white voters considering Bloomberg and Buttigieg, and worried about Mayor Pete’s ability to unify the party or win primaries in states with many voters of color, have an extra reason to prefer the New Yorker.
Bloomberg’s supporters are paying less attention
It’s not all good for Mike. With voters paying little or no attention, Bloomberg leads Buttigieg, 13% to 2%. For those paying a lot of attention, Mayor Pete is ahead 12% to 5%. If the voter is paying some attention it’s a relative tie (Mike 8, Pete 7.) Biden, Sanders, and Warren are evenly distributed.
Booker and Klobuchar do better with those who are paying attention, which makes sense. Lower-tier candidates aren’t going to register. Among those with decent or better national numbers, Bloomberg is the only one who does best the less a voter is informed, and Buttigieg the only one who does better the more informed.
The worst-case scenario is that as the less-informed voters lock in a bit more as they get closer to their actual time to go to the polls, they’ll move away from Bloomberg and towards Buttigieg. Another argument is that Bloomberg just resonates better with lower-information voters. They may prefer to put their anti-Trump future in the hands of the wealthy guy from the bigger city with more experience.
Paying less attention doesn’t mean less educated
Bloomberg voters are more likely (8%) than not (6%) to have a college degree. He’s doing twice as well with voters making over $100k (9%) than under $50k (5%.) Two-thirds of Buttigieg and Klobuchar voters have degrees, and Klobuchar is even more tilted toward upper income voters than Bloomberg, but don’t get the idea that his voters are downscale. They just have other things to do than closely follow the primary contest.
However, looking at income and education does show Bloomberg has a wider coalition than other non-Biden moderate options. While Buttigieg and Klobuchar will have to start appealing to new types of voters, Bloomberg just needs to get more of what he has.
If Bloomberg is taking votes from Buttigieg it’s with the “Somewhat Liberal” group
Quinnipiac measures ideology with the Very Liberal, Somewhat Liberal, Moderate/Conservative groups. Buttigieg was doing better with all three of them when he was at 16% than he is now at 9%. Not a surprise. The decay isn’t evenly distributed though. At his peak, he scored 13%/26%/15%, with his strong performance with Somewhat Liberal voters being part of what hurt Warren. In the same survey, Bloomberg was at 3% overall, with a 2%/3%/4% breakdown.
Now Bloomberg is up to 3%/10%/7% and Buttigieg is down to 8%/9%/9%. It sure seems like those Somewhat Liberal voters, and maybe a couple Moderate/Conservative voters have migrated to the mayor from the bigger city.
I know I said we were going to ignore other surveys, but I do need to mention Bloomberg’s 7% number with Quinnipiac is tied for his best national result. There are a couple other surveys at that number or very close to it (Morning Consult, Suffolk), but Emerson just put out a poll with him at 3%.
So we were looking at a scenario where Bloomberg is operating at the upper part of his present range. Look at this as an illustration of how it will work for Bloomberg if he gets somewhere instead of as strong evidence he’s already there. It’s also clear that while Buttigieg is someone to think about because of his current placing in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s not an unsurmountable obstacle to other candidates in his approximate lane.
Besides money, Bloomberg does have a few distinct advantages amongst alternatives to the Big Three, so we should pay attention to him going forward. The odds are still clearly against him though. Biden isn’t slipping at all, and if he stays in the 25%-30% range once voting begins, it’s going to be his nomination.