Political News

6 takeaways from CNN's latest national poll on 2020

Posted January 22, 2020 12:14 p.m. EST

— The latest CNN/SSRS national poll testing the Democratic primary and the general election is out, and it's a barnburner of a poll. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rose to his highest level ever in CNN Democratic primary polling and is in a top tier with former Vice President Joe Biden. President Donald Trump is in trouble for reelection nationally -- but he is in a better position in the battleground states.

Let's get into some more details.

1. Bernie? Bernie!

The biggest takeaway from our new poll has to be that Sanders is at 27% compared to Biden's 24% among potential Democratic primary voters. That's within the margin of error, and based on the averages Biden is still ahead (see also Monmouth University). What's important here, though, is the trendline in Sanders' support. He'd been consistently stuck in the teens prior to hitting 20% last month. Now, he's well above that at 27%. For those thinking there might be a ceiling to Sanders' support, this argues otherwise.

2. Sanders upward trajectory is seen in other polling

Although the CNN/SSRS poll is a gold standard pollster (e.g. calling cell phones and using live interviews), even the best of polls sometimes get fluky results. Sanders, though, is hitting his point since his post-announcement bump in the average poll too (e.g. Monmouth). He's above 20% in the average poll. So even if our poll is on the higher end for Sanders, the trendline is clear.

3. Sanders support crosses racial lines

About 40% of Democratic primary voters are nonwhite and somewhere around 20% are black. Most challengers to Biden have lacked support in this group. Sanders, though, is more than holding his own among nonwhite voters. He's at 30% with nonwhite voters, compared to 24% among white voters. Our poll's black voter population is small, though it is large enough to say that it doesn't differ significantly from nonwhite voters as a group. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month showed something similar.

4. Democrats united, not divided

Last week's dispute between Sanders and Warren may have left you wondering if Democrats as a whole are divided. Yet 70% or more of potential Democratic primary voters say they be at least satisfied if Biden, Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren got the nomination. Less than 25% would be dissatisfied if any of them got it. Just 10% or less said they be upset if one of the top three got the nomination. For comparison, 19% of potential Republican primary voters said they'd be upset if Donald Trump won the nomination at this point in the 2016 cycle.

5. Trump is in trouble nationally

The President was doing better in our polling last month, which hasn't carried over to this month. He's down 9 points to Biden (it was 5 last month), 7 points to Sanders (4 last month) and 5 points to Warren (1 last month). The two key notes here are that Trump isn't significantly outperforming his own popularity ratings (unlike 2016), and the relative standing of the Democrats to each other versus Trump is about the same. That is, Biden still has the claim of being the "most electable."

6. Democrats have a battleground problem

Look at these same general election matchups in the 15 closest states in 2016. It's Biden 49% to Trump's 47%, Sanders' 49% to Trump's 49% and Trump's 49% to Warren's 48%. All of those are within the margin of error. This follows last month's poll when Trump was doing better in the battlegrounds than overall. It's the same story that we saw in our polling last month. A look at the national picture likely undersells Trump's strength.

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