Or you might hear that the left-populist candidates — like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — actually would do better among working-class whites, because they’re talking about taking on the rigged system, just as Trump (fraudulently) did.
Or you might hear that a candidate vowing deep structural change (Warren) or a candidate promising a transformative agenda on climate change (Sanders) will win over young voters more successfully than the more moderate Biden would.
Or you might hear that the left-populists might be more alienating than Biden to college-educated and more affluent whites who are wary of major government interventions into the economy, complicating their ability to capitalize on those voters’ alienation from Trump. And so forth.
But this week’s polling from The Post and ABC News does not appear to capture any such differences. It shows that nationally, at least, the three leading Democratic candidates — Biden, Sanders and Warren — poll pretty much the same against Trump among many of these subgroups.
I’ve broken this down in the chart below. I chose the following subgroups, because they are often central to arguments about electability: Voters aged 18-39, college-educated white voters, non-college-educated white voters, white non-college women (who are said to be potentially more gettable than men by the right Democrat) and nonwhites:
As you can see, the breakdowns are pretty much the same among all the subgroups. It’s true that Biden does do somewhat better among college-educated whites against Trump than Sanders and to a lesser extent Warren do, but both fare quite well all the same.
Notably, that polling also shows that in those battlegrounds, all the candidates are running very similarly against Trump among non-college-educated whites. Yes, Biden runs better than Warren or Sanders among African Americans, but they both run better than he does among Latinos.
But even so, that group of persuadables is itself deeply splintered among different groups and divided on key issues. And the differences seem so marginal that it’s hard to really glean anything from them, particularly this far out, and particularly given that next year there will be countless other factors than can shift this or that group marginally in one direction or another, or energize one group more than another.
Indeed, looming in the background of the “electability” debate is that it’s very hard to say what, exactly, will drive truly persuadable voters in the end. Journalist Tom Edsall surveyed numerous political scientists on this question, and found them deeply divided over what motivates them.
And Democratic strategists are also flummoxed on this question, Edsall found. Which suggests perhaps we shouldn’t take confident predictions from them about who is more electable too seriously.
Lastly, presidential campaigns are incredibly grueling affairs, and no one can say how any candidate will hold up over the long haul. We might have to wait for the primaries to play out before having any sense of that. After all, that’s one reason we have them in the first place.