Democratic Primary 2020 Poll, February 28

FairVote commissioned a SurveyUSA nationwide poll of 825 likely Democratic presidential primary voters which took place on February 25 and 26, starting immediately following the presidential debate in South Carolina. The goal of our poll was to elevate approaches to polling crowded fields that provide greater insight than the usual focus on “single choice” results. We also asked respondents for their views about using ranked choice voting in presidential primaries and, adding in non-Democrats, to rate each Democratic candidate’s chances to win in November.

This presentation of findings includes:


Interactive Presentation

In our interactive presentation, explore results by clicking on any candidate to add or remove them from the running, with the removed candidate’s votes going to their supporter’s next ranked choice. You can do so within several demographic groups as well. To show how Bernie Sanders narrowly defeats Joe Biden in the ranked choice voting tally, remove the last place candidates until a candidate reaches a 50% majority, or click the button below.

Note that the interactive does not include voters who indicated "Undecided" at any ranking level. 

Show me the ranked choice results
Click on a topic to begin.



A Second Choice Table shows who voters would prefer if their first choice drops out of the race, or is eliminated in a round-by-round RCV count. 

See a larger table here.



A head-to-head table simulates head-to-head match-ups based on respondents' rankings. A candidate ranked higher than another candidate on a voter's ballot is assumed to win that voter's head-to-head match-up. All ranked candidates on a ballot are assumed to be preferred to all non-ranked candidates.

This chart is best read across rows. For example, the Joe Biden row can be read as: "Joe Biden wins 59% of head-to-head match-ups against Michael Bloomberg, 66% of head-to-head match-ups against Pete Buttigieg..." and so on. As shown, Bernie Sanders wins a majority of a head-to-head match-ups against each other candidate.


See a larger table here.



Cumulative support across rankings is a way to measure how quickly a candidate consolidates support. 

For example, only 28% of voters ranked Bernie Sanders as their first choice, but 49% ranked him in their top two, and 62% ranked him in their top three. Only Sanders and Biden were ranked in the top three rankings by a majority of voters.

Click the menu bar and arrows below to watch how candidates accumulate support from first choice rankings, two-two rankings, top-three rankings, and so on. Feb28 Cumulative Support550736no0border:none;allowfullscreen



In addition to seeing who voters may support if their top choice drops out (or is eliminated during an RCV count), a ranked poll provides opportunities to learn more about the breadth of support each candidate has. For instance, the below chart shows how many voters ranked each candidate in each position. 

This chart indicates different depths of support for different candidates. For example, candidates like Sanders, Biden, and Bloomberg have many first- and second-choice rankings. Candidates such as Gabbard and Steyer appear more frequently as sixth- and seventh-place rankings. of Candidate Rankings SurveyUSA Feb28888690no0border:none;allowfullscreen





In addition to the ranked choice voting questions, our poll asked respondents the likelihood that each Democratic candidate could Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election. Only likely Democratic primary voters were asked to rank the candidates, but all registered voters were asked to estimate candidates' likelihood of defeating President Trump in the general election, allowing us to compare responses from Democrats and Republicans. 

The exact wording of the question was: 

"Some voters say any Democrat will defeat Donald Trump in November. Some voters say no Democrat will defeat Donald Trump in November. Others think certain Democrats will beat Trump and others will not.

For each Democrat running for President, please tell me how likely that Democrat is to defeat Trump. You may enter any number between 0 and 100, where zero means you think a particular Democrat has no chance whatsoever to defeat Trump, where 100 means this candidate is absolutely 100% certain to defeat Trump, and where 50 means you think the particular Democrats has a 50-50 chance of defeating Trump."

Three charts below show results from different groups of respondents.







63% of respondents reported favorable opinions towards using RCV for presidential primary elections, with consistently majority support across various demographics.

infogram_0_295f4ce7-3c01-4103-a113-8f632206fa46SurveyUSA - Feb2020 - Support for RCV


See a larger table here.



95% of poll respondents who participated in the ranking questions chose to rank at least two candidates, showing that voters are comfortable choosing backup candidates. More than half of respondents ranked seven choices, the maximum allowed by our survey. 

infogram_0_cdd0cb69-5280-4485-999d-3f3a997e8b6aSurveyUSA - Feb2020 - Number of Rankings

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