CNN Poll: Joe Biden holds lead heading into December debate

CNN's Harry Enten breaks down a new CNN Poll, where Joe Biden holds the lead for the Democratic nomination for president.

Posted: Dec 19, 2019 3:10 PM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 3:10 PM

Joe Biden continues to hold a lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for president and remains the candidate potential Democratic voters think has the best shot to defeat Donald Trump, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

Biden has the backing of about a quarter (26%) of registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 20%, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 16%, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8% and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 5%. Three candidates hold 3% support each in the poll: businessman Andrew Yang, and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Related: Read the full poll results

As 2019 comes to a close, a look back at where things were a year ago suggests two major changes have emerged in the national picture. The first is Elizabeth Warren's rise, and the second is the emergence of Pete Buttigieg as a top-level contender.

Compared with a year ago, Biden's support is just a bit lower (33% said they backed him in December 2018, 7 points better than his current backing), while Sanders' is just a bit higher (14% chose Sanders last December). Warren is the only candidate tested in both surveys to move double-digits in the last year (up 12 points from 4% a year ago). Buttigieg hadn't yet made the list of contenders, and 11 candidates tested in the survey last December have since opted out of the race, including two -- former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rouke and California Senator Kamala Harris -- who had landed in that poll's top six.

The shape of the race

Overall, the contours of the race for the Democratic nomination remain fairly similar to where they have been recently. Biden leads among non-white voters, while whites are more evenly split between Biden, Warren and Sanders, with Buttigieg not far behind. Younger potential Democratic voters continue to provide a boost to Sanders, while older ones favor Biden. Warren's strength lies in those with college degrees as she runs near even with Sanders at the top among liberals. Those who consider themselves moderate or conservative generally lean Biden's way.

The poll suggests, however, some hesitancy developing among potential Democratic voters. The share who are "very satisfied" with the field of candidates has dipped from 38% in June to 31% now. The share who say they might change their mind about the Democratic field ticks up to a majority and stands at 51% nationally. In January 2016, the closest comparative datapoint available from that cycle, 37% felt the same way.

At the same time, however, the poll finds a sharp uptick in enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Half of all registered voters now say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting for president next year, the largest in any CNN poll on enthusiasm about voting in a presidential election, which date back to 2003. Among Democrats, that figure has spiked from 46% last month to 58% now, while independents have held steady and Republican enthusiasm has climbed a more modest 7 points to 59%.

Democrats' priorities in choosing their nominee may have shifted, according to the poll. The share who say it is more important to them that the party nominate a candidate with a strong chance of beating Trump over one who shares their positions on major issues has fallen to 47%, the smallest in CNN polling on this question so far. Meanwhile, the share who offer that both electability and issues are equally important has climbed to 11%, a new high.

Biden leads the field by a wide margin on electability: 40% call him the candidate with the best chance to beat Trump, while 16% choose Sanders, 10% Warren, 6% Bloomberg and 4% Buttigieg. Biden is also well ahead of the field on having the best chance to unite the country (37% Biden, 14% Sanders, 10% Warren, 7% Buttigieg and 5% Bloomberg).

On the issues, however, Sanders holds the lead: 28% say he agrees with their views on the issues that matter most to that voter -- with Biden at 19%, Warren at 15%, Buttigieg at 10% and Bloomberg at 5%. Sanders also leads on empathy (26% to Biden's 18%, Warren's 16% and Buttigieg's 9%) and honesty (27% Sanders, 21% Biden, 13% Warren, 8% Buttigieg and 5% Yang).

But separating Biden's current supporters from those backing the rest of the field suggests that in this crowded field, Biden may not have much ability to grow his support beyond the voters who already support him. Biden's supporters are near universal in their view that he has the best chance at beating Trump (88% say so). Those who aren't already in Biden's camp, though, split between Sanders (24%) and Biden (22%), with Warren slightly behind (16%) on who would have the best shot at winning against Trump. On issues, almost no one who doesn't already support Biden says he is the candidate who agrees with them most on top issues (just 3% choose him, compared with 35% for Sanders, 20% for Warren and 13% for Buttigieg).

Those potential Democratic voters who aren't already backing Biden are also the source of much of the dropoff in the former Vice President's favorability rating among potential Democratic voters. Overall, 67% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have a positive view of Biden, down from 74% in October. Among those who are not supporting him for the Democratic nomination, his numbers have dipped from 65% favorable to 56% favorable.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS December 12 through 15 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. For results among the subset of 408 registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, the error margin is plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 539829

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798271529
Mobile41261809
Madison35132506
Tuscaloosa25915455
Shelby25294249
Montgomery24705593
Baldwin21392310
Lee15987172
Calhoun14569319
Morgan14422280
Etowah13918353
Marshall12275225
Houston10641282
Elmore10147206
Limestone10065151
St. Clair9946245
Cullman9761194
Lauderdale9457243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8339176
Walker7260278
Autauga7001108
Jackson6836112
Blount6771139
Colbert6320135
Coffee5578118
Dale4876113
Russell445138
Chilton4369113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394777
Chambers3590123
Dallas3568153
Clarke351461
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302698
Winston275773
Bibb264564
Geneva254078
Marengo249665
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale223978
Butler219069
Fayette212662
Henry189643
Cherokee184645
Randolph182442
Monroe178141
Washington167739
Macon161150
Clay157157
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143236
Lowndes140553
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Mostly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 80°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 80°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 80°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 79°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for the end of the weekend. We will see our area filled with plenty of sunshine but clouds will be on the increase into the evening hours. There will be some changes for the start work week in our weather forecast as low pressure brings back some chances for showers and thunderstorms.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather