Poll Shows Biden and Sanders on Top in Nevada

Latest Suffolk University/USA Today Network survey

Majority feel Iowa and New Hampshire contests do not reflect nation’s diversity

The sands are shifting in Nevada, where the most recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll of likely Democratic caucus voters showed them moving toward Sen. Bernie Sanders and others and away from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Former President Joe Biden (19 percent) edged Sanders (18 percent) in an outcome that is well within the margin of error. But Biden has dropped four points since a Suffolk University/USA TODAY September poll in Nevada, while Sanders has gained four points.

Warren followed at 11 percent, down eight points since September. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire Tom Steyer (tied at 8 percent) had gained five points each. Businessman Andrew Yang and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar each had the support of 4 percent of Democratic voters, while the other Democrats on the Nevada ballot combined for 5 percent, and 22 percent were undecided.

Among those voters who said their minds are “firmly made up,” Biden (30 percent) led Sanders (28 percent), followed by Warren (10 percent).

“With more and more Biden and Sanders voters making up their minds about their solid first choice, it becomes more challenging for other candidates to siphon off those votes,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Add to that the surges of Sanders, Buttigieg and now Steyer, who is closing in on the top tier, and you've got yourself the makings of a really close finish.”

Demographic trends

Biden has strong support among older and African-American voters in Nevada. Among voters age 65 and over, Biden (40 percent) led both Sanders and Steyer (tied at 9 percent). Among African-American voters, Biden led Sanders 26 percent to 19 percent.

However, Sanders leads Biden 34 percent to 15 percent among voters ages 18-35, while Warren is favored by 10 percent of these young voters. Among those who self-identify as very liberal or liberal, Sanders (29 percent) leads Biden and Warren, who each drew 17 percent of these voters.

Issues reflected in support for candidates

Among voters most concerned about health care, Sanders led Biden 26 percent to 25 percent, and among those most concerned about climate change, Sanders led 25 percent to Biden’s 13 percent. But among those most concerned about the economy, Biden led Sanders 29 percent to 17 percent.

Biden recently proposed nominating former President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court, if he were amenable, and 79 percent of Nevada caucus-goers support this idea, while 14 percent are opposed.

Second-choice preferences

Despite Warren’s decline as a first-choice candidate since September, she is the strongest second-choice candidate in Nevada. This is an important metric if lower-tier candidates do not reach the 15 percent threshold, forcing their supporters to choose an alternate candidate. Warren (21 percent) topped Biden (19 percent) in this scenario, with 12 percent choosing Sanders as an alternate to their first preference.

Over 81 percent of self-identified caucus-goers said they’d stick with the Democratic nominee whomever he or she is, though 11 percent would not vote for a nominee who is not their first choice, and 7 percent were undecided.

Upcoming Debate

Nearly 44 percent of those polled said they may change their minds before the caucus, and 75 percent of Nevada caucus-goers plan to watch the Jan. 14 debate, while 19 percent do not.

Diversity seen lacking in early-voting states

With six white Democratic candidates remaining for the Jan. 14 debate, past candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and author Marianne Williamson have complained about rules that force candidates to campaign in predominantly white early states. Meanwhile, Andrew Yang, who remains in the nomination race, and Sen. Cory Booker, who dropped out this week, did not qualify for this month’s debate. Fifty-nine percent of Nevada Democratic voters do not like the system of holding the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire because the two states do not reflect the nation’s diversity, while 23 percent disagreed and 18 percent were undecided.

Methodology

The statewide survey of 500 likely Democratic caucus-goers was conducted Jan. 8 through Jan. 11 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were very or somewhat likely to vote in the upcoming Democratic caucus. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.