Poll: 3rd-Party Candidate Would Give Trump Advantage

Suffolk University/USA Today survey shows Biden strong among Democrats

Voters want Congressional subpoenas honored but oppose impeachment

Former Vice President Joe Biden tops all Democratic presidential candidates in a national Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of registered voters, but in a hypothetical general election matchup that includes a third-party candidate, President Donald Trump would be in the lead.

Biden led his closest rival by a two-to-one margin among voters who said they would vote in a Democratic primary or caucus, 30 percent compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 15 percent, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (10 percent), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (9 percent), Sen. Kamala Harris (8 percent), Sen. Cory Booker (2 percent), and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (2 percent). The other 17 Democratic candidates tested in the polling split 7 percent, and 17 percent were undecided.

Meanwhile the poll shows a generic Democratic nominee trailing President Trump by 3 points in a three-way race, 40 percent to 37 percent, with 9 percent of voters saying they would vote for a third-party candidate and 14 percent undecided.

And 49 percent of registered voters said they believe Trump will win reelection in 2020, compared to 38 percent who think a Democrat will prevail.

“Every state ballot in 2016 had more than two choices for president,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. Third-party candidates are normally excluded from the final debates, and most people don’t take them seriously. "But third-party votes provide an outlet for people who dislike both major-party candidates or think the two-party system is broken.”

In 2016, third-party votes tilted at least a dozen states, many of which were key to winning the Electoral College, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire. These states, and others, recorded more total votes cast for third-party candidates than the margin of victory for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Democratic Issues

With Democratic candidates preparing for next week’s debates on NBC, the poll reveals what issues likely Democratic primary voters and caucus-goers would like to hear about. Health care (20 percent) topped the list, followed by immigration/border security (12 percent), economy/budget (9 percent), climate change/environment (7 percent), with education and taxes tied at 5 percent each.

Checks and balances

President’s Trump’s efforts to ignore and resist congressional subpoenas do not sit well with voters. A majority (55 percent) said that the White House should comply with congressional subpoenas, while 37 percent said that the White House should continue to make the case that it does not have to comply, with 8 percent undecided.

Among Democrats, 75 percent said Trump should comply with the subpoenas, and 57 percent of independents and 30 percent of Republicans agreed.

Despite their views on Trump’s resisting subpoenas, a majority of voters (61 percent) oppose impeaching the president, a position they share with Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, while 32 percent support impeachment. Those opposing impeachment include 29 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents and 91 percent of Republicans.

“You’ve got a voting public that values our system of checks and balances. They don’t want President Trump impeached, but they don’t want him and his administration to ignore congressional subpoenas either,” said Paleologos.


The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters was conducted June 11 through June 15 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 618 Democratic and independent voters asked about potential Democratic candidates is +/- 4 percentage points. The margin of error for the subset of 385 Democratic and independent voters who plan to vote in their state’s Democratic primary or caucus is +/- 5 percentage points. The margin of error for the subset of 326 Republican and independent voters who plan to vote in their state’s Republican primary or caucus is +/- 5.4 percentage points. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310 or by email.