Posted by Emily Risch on February 28, 2020 at 11:22 AM

After South Carolina Democratic Debate and before its primary

FairVote/SurveyUSA “Ranked Choice” Poll Reveals Better Ways to Gauge Democratic Voter Preferences in Crowded Presidential Field

Sanders and Biden are clear frontrunners based on rankings analysis.
Poll includes voter assessment of who can defeat Trump. 


National -- FairVote’s latest ranked choice voting poll of the Democratic presidential primary field, done in partnership with SurveyUSA, showcases the benefits of surveying through a ranked choice lens -- allowing voters to rank up to seven of the eight Democratic candidates in order of preference -- provides greater insight into the state of a still-crowded Democratic 2020 race and candidates’ potential paths to victory than traditional “single choice” or “second choices only.”

Featured findings include the following:

  • Sanders leads Biden in the final round of a ranked choice voting tally 51% - 49%. National first choice results show Sanders leading with 28%, followed by Biden and Bloomberg at 21%, with all other candidates trailing with less than 10% of first choices.

  • Head-to-head, Sanders has a large advantage over all other candidates. 

  • Only Sanders (62%) and Biden (59%) are ranked in the top three by over half of voters. Bloomberg and Warren are the only other candidates ranked in the top four by more than half of voters.

  • Voters generally see their first choice as most electable against Trump. Democratic voters are most optimistic about Sanders’ chances, with respondents assigning him an average 49% chance to beat Trump in a hypothetical general election. 

  • Voters are ready for ranked choice voting for presidential primaries: 64% approve, and only 20% disapprove, with steady support across all demographics

FairVote’s presentation of findings includes the following:

“In contrast to how most single choice opinion polling is used, ranked choice voting surveys allow a greater understanding of how voters are considering a field of options, what depth of support candidates have in rankings and how one candidate’s fall over the course of the campaign could affect others' rise,” said FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie. “This survey gives a snapshot of a moment in time, showing where the democratic electorate is landing on the candidates and the issues, what could happen if the field narrows, and which candidates are best-positioned to benefit.”

The FairVote/SurveUSA survey of Democratic voters comes as ranked choice voting has growing momentum nationwide. A new Maine law will make it the first state to use ranked choice voting to decide Electoral College votes in the general presidential election in 2020. Four state Democratic parties will use RCV in their primary elections in 2020. New York City will use RCV for mayoral and other elections in 2021, and more than 20 cities and counties will use RCV in their next elections.

The survey of 825 likely Democratic Presidential primary voters took place from February 25 to February 26, starting after the debate on February 25th in South Carolina.


FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. 

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