Democrats see Biden, Warren as close in views, Sanders as more extreme

Washington: Democratic primary voters nationwide see former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren as relatively close to their own political views but regard Senator Bernie Sanders as significantly further to their left, a new University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows.

Elizabeth Warren is running for the Democratic presidential nomination on a platform to reduce economic inequality and racial injustice. Credit:AP

The Democrats see Biden as slightly more conservative than themselves and Warren as slightly more liberal, the poll found.

As with other recent surveys, the latest USC/L.A. Times poll shows Biden, Sanders and Warren as the top choices for Democrats nationwide, with Warren having moved into a rough tie with Sanders for second place behind Biden. Senator Kamala Harris has faded, having lost many of her supporters after a spike earlier in the summer.

Among the lead trio, Sanders has a couple of significant disadvantages, the poll indicates.

Ideology is one factor that goes into how voters choose whom to support – though not necessarily the deciding one. In the past, candidates seen as on the ideological extremes have often faced problems; Sanders' status as the outlier in the Democratic field could limit his ability to expand his support.

Former US vice-president Joe Biden is easily leading the polls among potential 2020 Democratic candidates.Credit:Bloomberg

Another problem for the senator from Vermont is engagement: Sanders does best among people who did not watch or listen to the last Democratic debate, the only candidate for whom that's true.

Warren's backing shows the opposite pattern. The Massachusetts senator does best among voters who watched or heard about the July debate. Her steady growth in support since the spring has come through consolidating the backing of college-educated white liberals. She has managed to match many of Sanders' positions without being perceived by voters as being as far to the left, the poll finds.

The Biden-Warren matchup, which many Democratic insiders think could be the final bracket of the primary contest, has begun to resemble a familiar pattern.

Democratic primaries have often featured an insurgent with strong backing from white, college-educated voters challenging an establishment-backed candidate with significant blue-collar and African American backing: Gary Hart versus Walter Mondale in 1984 and Paul Tsongas against Bill Clinton in 1992 are two examples of such "wine track" versus "beer track" races.

Senator Bernie Sanders has vowed to eliminate all student debt.Credit:AP

While this year's contest differs from those in many ways, it has one big similarity: Warren, like the "wine track" candidates of previous years, needs to find a way to broaden her support, especially among African American and Latino Democrats.

Warren tied Biden with white college graduates at 23 per cent, and was also essentially tied with him among the most liberal quarter of Democratic voters.

But her support fell to 9 per cent among white nongraduates of college, 6 per cent among nongraduates of all races, 3 per cent among all African Americans and 7 per cent among all Latinos, the poll found.

Warren "can't have 6 per cent of people without college degrees for her" and win, said Bob Shrum, director of USC's Centre for the Political Future, which co-sponsored the poll. "She needs to build that up."

The findings also offer some backing to Biden's argument that he would give the Democrats their strongest chance in an election against President Donald Trump: Potential swing voters in the general election see Biden as relatively close to their own position but view the other leading Democrats as further to the left, the poll finds.


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