Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended his campaign for president on Wednesday, March 4 and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced she would be ending her campaign on Thursday. When relying on traditional “single-choice” polling, voters and journalists often have to make educated guesses about how candidate exits could impact the race, but ranked choice voting (RCV) polls offer deeper insights into the backup choices of candidates’ supporters.
FairVote’s February 28 RCV SurveyUSA nationwide poll shows that Biden may benefit the most from Bloomberg’s exit. Our second-choice table shows that, of respondents who indicated Bloomberg is their first choice, 44% list Biden as their second choice and 25% choose Sanders. The impact of Warren’s departure from the race could potentially be the reverse; the second-choice table shows that, of respondents who indicated Warren is their first choice, 45% choose Sanders as their second choice, and 14% choose Biden.
So how do we know the combined impact of Bloomberg and Warren leaving the race? As FairVote’s interactive tool shows, the exits reduce Bernie Sanders lead over Joe Biden from 7% to 2%, indicating a dead heat in the one-on-one match up, as the difference is within the margin of error.
National RCV February 28 Poll - Including Bloomberg and Warren
National RCV February 28 Poll - Sanders and Biden Head-to-Head
Adding in Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to the three-way choice among active candidates increases Sanders' lead to about 4%, still within the margin of error.
Three-Way Choice Among Active Candidates
While news events, endorsements, and Super Tuesday results have changed the state of the race, our previous RCV polls show important underlying patterns. For example, our South Carolina primary survey in December eerily anticipated percentages of the vote for Biden, Sanders, and trailing candidates when used to reduce the field to the viable candidates as of last week.
Of course, polls are only surveys. When used in our elections, RCV gives voters more power to express themselves when there are more than two choices in a race.