Voices & Choices

Sanders May Benefit in South Carolina from Yang and Bennet Dropping Out

Sanders May Benefit in South Carolina from Yang and Bennet Dropping Out

Following the New Hampshire primary, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael Bennet dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Yang and Bennet’s decisions are notable for at least two reasons regarding ranked choice voting (RCV): (1) both candidates were vocal supporters of RCV and included the reform prominently in their policy platforms, and (2) FairVote’s ranked choice voting polls can help show which other candidates may be well-positioned to appeal to Yang and Bennet’s supporters. 

Support for RCV

Yang’s RCV policy page highlights how RCV increases turnout, better captures voter preferences, allows for more moderate candidates, and decreases negative campaigning, while asking, “Why do we accept a system that leads us to feel that we’re voting for the person who is going to do the least bad instead of the most good?” Bennet, for his part, published a political reform policy page that calls RCV “an innovative approach to reduce partisanship and increase choices for voters” and advocates for federal support for state and local governments that transition to ranked choice voting.

RCV Polls Provide Insights

While the state of the race has changed since FairVote commissioned YouGov to conduct a national RCV poll in September and a South Carolina RCV poll in December, the benefit of RCV polls is they can help account for withdrawn candidates and anticipate potential overlaps in different candidates’ bases of support. By using our South Carolina interactive widget, it is possible to see how Yang and Bennet’s support is redistributed when they are removed from the race:

South Carolina RCV Poll With Active Candidates and Yang and Bennet in Contention

South Carolina RCV Poll With Only Active Candidates in Contention

While the sample sizes involved are too small to suggest any definitive findings, Sanders benefits the most in the South Carolina RCV poll from Yang and Bennet dropping out, increasing his level of support from 14.7% to 16.4% — a total increase of 1.7%. While that increase may seem small, it moves Sanders above the all important 15% threshold required to earn delegates at the statewide level. Sanders and Yang both rely significantly on younger voters as their base of support, so Sanders’ gain hints at the possibility that he may be a strong contender to earn the most support from the #YangGang.

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