CNN releases 2020 New Hampshire poll
Back in 2016, voters not affiliated with any party (independents) gave Bernie Sanders a big New Hampshire primary victory. The 40% of unaffiliated voters supported Sanders by a 72% to 27% margin over Hillary Clinton. This turned a close race among Democrats (a 50% to 49% Clinton advantage) into a blowout, giving Sanders a more than 20-point win overall.
This year, it's a very different game. Sanders still does better with unaffiliated voters (22%) than registered Democrats (15%). It's Biden, however, who does best among unaffiliated voters at 29%. It's another example of how Biden is eating into Sanders' support.
Our poll also asked voters whether they participated in the 2016 Democratic primary. Four years ago, there was, of course, a competitive Republican primary.
In a small sample size, Biden does better at 34% among those who didn't vote in the Democratic primary in 2016 than among those who did at 21%.
Sanders exhibits a very different pattern. He does his best (23%) among those who say they voted in the 2016 Democratic primary. Among those who didn't take part in it, Sanders wins just 6%.
For now, Biden's the one who can rightfully claim that he is winning over voters who weren't Democratic primary voters four years ago. They either sat out entirely or voted in the Republican primary.
In a cycle in which voters are putting a premium on electability, Joe Biden still holds the clear edge in our latest poll. A clear plurality (45%) of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire say Biden has the best chance of winning the general election. That's well ahead of Sanders (16%), who had beaten Biden on this question back in April.
To give you an idea of how important this factor is to Biden's support, take a look at the other questions we asked. We asked which candidate was best able to handle gun policies, the climate crisis, health care and the economy. Biden either trailed or held a lead within the margin of error on each of these.
Even voters who support other candidates list Biden fairly high on the electability scale. Among Sanders and Warren supporters, for example, Biden comes in at 24% for who is most electable. That places him in a top tier with Sanders (36%) and Warren (19%).
Among his own supporters, Biden is the overwhelming choice on electability. A near unanimous 82% of Biden supporters say he has the best chance of winning the general election. No other candidate registers above 2%.
Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke has seen his support almost collapse. He registers just 2% in our latest New Hampshire poll. This comes after he reported pulling in less than $4 million during the second fundraising quarter of 2019.
There is one good piece of news: O'Rourke has qualified for the third primary debates in September. To qualify, a candidate needs to reach a fundraising threshold (which O'Rourke has) as well as get at least 2% in four qualifying polls. O'Rourke already had hit 2% in three polls. This New Hampshire poll is O'Rourke's fourth.
The question, of course, is whether being on the debate stage will actually do O'Rourke any good. His first debate performance was subpar; only 1% of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said he did the best in it.
Further, our New Hampshire survey is just the latest to show O'Rourke flailing in the polls. A recent Iowa poll from Suffolk University had him at just 1% there. Our CNN Poll of Polls has O'Rourke at a mere 2% nationally.
O'Rourke's road to recovery will likely need to begin in our CNN debates taking place in Detroit on July 30 and 31.
One critique of candidates is that they aren't "likable" enough. This criticism is frequently lobbed at women candidates. You may recall Hillary Clinton was asked a question on this subject during a New Hampshire debate in 2008, and Barack Obama told her, "You're likable enough."
Our poll suggests that voters view the men in this race as a lot more likable than the women. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders each take 20% when New Hampshire Democratic primary voters were asked which Democratic candidate is most likable. Buttigieg comes in third with 18%.
None of the women candidates even come close. Only 5% list Kamala Harris as most likable and just 4% say Elizabeth Warren is.
Warren's poor standing on this question comes even as she rose significantly in the horserace from April.
Interestingly, there's little difference between the percentage of men and women who say that Harris and Warren are the most likable.
These poll findings would indicate that likability is very much a gender charged question.
Still, it's something we need to keep in mind when examining the primary going forward. The women candidates may be hurt because voters may not see them as "likable enough".
The New Hampshire primary isn't taking place until February 2020. With only 16% of voters definitely decided on a candidate, the polls are likely to change.
Still, past history suggests that the polling now can be telling in one aspect: the candidate who is ahead in New Hampshire at roughly this point in past cycles has usually gone on to win the nomination.
I went back and looked at polling in primaries without an incumbent running since 1980. The candidate who has ahead at this point went on to win his or her party's nomination 10 of 14 times (71%). This includes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016.
The only times the leader from the previous summer didn't win the nomination was in 1992 for the Democrats, 2004 for the Democrats and 2008 for the Democrats and Republicans. In three of those four contests (all but 1992), the eventual nominee was in no worse than third place in the New Hampshire polls at this point. That suggests that the candidates not named Biden, Sanders and Warren may be in trouble.
There is an exception to the rule, however. Bill Clinton didn't reach double digits in any New Hampshire poll until December 1991. Of course, Clinton didn't declare his candidacy until October 1991. The vast majority of poorly polling Democrats have been running for months now.
It's easy to see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both pulling 19% and say that you can combine these two candidates' backers to create a clear plurality. Indeed, both are top candidates when you ask voters who their second choice would be.
But there are some distinct and familiar demographic differences between the two.
Sanders supporters are much more blue collar and younger. Sanders earns 23% among those without a college degree and 26% among those under the age of 50. That drops to 9% among those with a college degree and 11% among voters 50 years and older.
In our poll, Warren does slightly better among those with a college degree than without (21% vs. 18%). She does not show the same large age gap as Sanders, taking 17% among those 50 years and older compared to 21% among those under 50 years-old.
One other very key difference is how these voters are registered. In the New Hampshire primary, voters can take part in a party's primary if they are registered with that party or registered with no party.
Sanders does better with those registered with no party (22%) than those registered as a Democrat (15%). (Biden shows a similar gap.)
Warren, on the other hand, does better among Democrats (25%) than unaffiliated voters (12%).
This matches up with national polling that suggests Sanders voters are not anywhere near as pleased with the Democratic Party as Warren voters are.
My initial reaction upon seeing our poll was surprise that Joe Biden was holding his own after his poor debate performance late last month. After looking over our poll, it's pretty clear that Biden is probably being helped by a divided competition.
Biden's favorable rating stands at 57%. That's not bad, but it's actually third in our poll. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have favorable ratings of 67%. Biden's running just ahead of Kamala Harris, who has a 54% favorable rating and a much lower unfavorable (14%) than Biden's (25%).
Keep in mind, though: Biden's the only moderate among the top tier.
Among moderates and conservatives, Biden's holds 31% of the vote. That's well ahead of Sanders at 14% and Warren at 13%.
Among all liberals, Biden's standing is slashed in half at 16%. (He's even lower among those who describe themselves as extremely or very liberal.) Warren leads with liberals at 26% with Sanders second at 20%.
Will Sanders or Warren (or someone else) be able to unite liberals? It's easy to say yes, though there's no guarantee of that. There are other divides in the Democratic primary, which could keep liberals from coalescing behind one candidate.