Survey Gauges Excitement for 2020 Presidential Prospects

Suffolk University/USA Today Poll

Democrats and independents are enthusiastic about a potential Biden candidacy

In a large field of declared and potential Democratic candidates for president in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden is the one who most excites Democrats and independent voters’ imaginations (59 percent are excited about his potential candidacy), according to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll. The survey presented the potential candidates’ names, not as a horse race, but rather asked about a range of feelings for each candidate.

Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders had the second highest level of excitement (42 percent), but the would-be 2016 nominee also had the greatest percentage of voters who said he should drop out (33 percent).

The poll also shows that Democratic and independent voters’ want a demographic balance on the ticket, said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center in Boston.

"When Democrats and independents were asked if they would be satisfied if their party's nominee for president and vice president were two white men, a plurality of respondents said no,” said Paleologos. “This means that if Biden or Sanders were nominated, they might see voter intensity drop should they tap a white male vice presidential candidate.”

Forty-four percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents rejected the idea of an all-white-male ticket.

Other candidates, in descending order of voter enthusiasm, included Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris (36 percent), former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (34 percent), Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (32 percent), N.J. Sen. Cory Booker (31 percent), Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (18 percent), N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (14 percent), and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, (12 percent). Others presented in the poll had levels of excitement below 8 percent.

Democrats said they would chose a candidate who can win (48 percent) over one whose priorities are in line with their own (38 percent).

Issues that could swing Democratic voters toward a particular candidate are: higher taxes on the very wealthy (75 percent), Medicare for all (69 percent), free higher education (63 percent), breaking up tech companies and the Green New Deal (45 percent each).

Parties out of favor

High unfavorable ratings for America’s two major parties—48 percent unfavorable for both the Democratic and Republican parties—are reflected in many voters’ favoring third-party candidates or remaining undecided as they contemplate the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump held an edge in an election scenario against unnamed opponents, with 39 percent of voters saying they would choose him if the election were held today, 36 percent choosing an unnamed Democratic nominee, and 11 percent a third-party candidate, with 14 percent undecided.

"Both the Democratic and Republican nominees will have to reconcile this 11 percent of voters who say that they would vote for a third-party candidate,” said Paleologos. “In fact among self-described moderate independent voters, the number jumped to 26 percent, and to 33 percent among independents who consider themselves liberal."

In terms of Trump’s job performance, 49 percent of voters disapprove and 48 percent approve, with 3 percent undecided.

Mueller probe

The poll also showed that a majority of voters (82 percent) believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report on Russian influence and the 2016 presidential election should be released to the public.

College admissions scandal

In the wake of a federal investigation that unveiled a college admissions scandal, 67 percent of voters said the process for accepting students is unfair and favors the wealthy and well-connected, according to the poll, while 19 percent said the college admissions process was fair, and 13 percent were undecided on the issue.


The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters was conducted March 13 through March 17 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were registered to vote. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. The margin of error for the subset of 600 Democratic and independent voters asked about potential Democratic candidates is +/- 4 percentage points. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310,



Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs