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From a distance, Quinnipiac University’s new national poll looking at the 2020 Democratic primary looks fairly familiar. There’s former vice president Joe Biden atop the field, with a 19-point lead over the next-closest candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The rest of the top tier includes familiar names, too: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
When we look at how the top tier has evolved, though, things get interesting.
First of all, Biden’s lead over Sanders has narrowed in Quinnipiac’s polling. Biden led Sanders by 27 points (and Warren by 26) at the end of April. Part of the shift is that Sanders, after seeing his poll numbers sag a month ago, has rebounded.
Why? Well, as we’ve noted before, Sanders seems to have lost support as Buttigieg gained ground. With the South Bend mayor’s support dropping back down, Sanders’s has gone back up.
Happily for Buttigieg, no one will be talking about his polling fade, because they’ll be busy talking about former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s. At the end of March, Quinnipiac’s polling had him in third. Now, he’s tied for eighth with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and trails Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) by a point. (As always, “trails by a point” in a poll like this should be read as “is tied with.”)
Happily for O’Rourke, though, there are even worse numbers for another one of the candidates. More on that in a second.
Quinnipiac’s poll includes an assessment of the favorability of each of the major candidates — not an easy thing to do, given how many there are. Remarkably, only six of the candidates are well-known enough that more than half of respondents have an opinion of them. For 17 of the candidates, at least half of respondents said they hadn’t heard enough to say whether they viewed the contender favorably.
Unsurprisingly, those candidates who are better-known also had more support. This isn’t just about name recognition: If most voters haven’t heard of you, they’re unlikely to say they want you to be president.
When we compare awareness to polling support, though, we see how Biden stands out. Sanders is about as well-known among Democrats, but Biden polls much better.
Of course, part of being well regarded as a candidate is having voters who hope you don’t win. Quinnipiac asked Democrats if there were any candidates that they hoped wouldn’t win. About 10 percent of those surveyed identified both Biden and Sanders, the two front-runners.
The next most commonly cited candidate? New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It’s a pretty impressive feat that de Blasio’s pulled off here. No one picked him as their preferred nominee, but one out of every 12 respondents said affirmatively that they didn’t want him to win.
Why? Well, de Blasio is really unpopular among the Democratic candidates. Fourteen percent of Democrats view him favorably, and 35 percent view him unfavorably, a net favorability of minus-21. That’s substantially worse than any other Democratic candidate.
We can put this another way. More than half of respondents said they didn’t know enough about de Blasio to have an opinion of him. Of those who did have an opinion, 71 percent of the opinions were negative.
Overall, it gets worse. While most of the Democratic candidates have net-negative favorable ratings overall, excluding Biden and Buttigieg, no one comes close to de Blasio’s minus-37 net favorability.
Why’s it so low? Because Republicans dislike him strongly (minus-55) as they do most of the Democratic candidates. But his unpopularity with Democrats means there’s not really anything to offset those negative opinions.
To drive that point home, we’ll add another comparison.
Yes, de Blasio is less popular on net than President Trump. De Blasio’s net favorability, in fact, is about twice as bad as the president’s.
In 2016, Trump benefited from running against a Democratic candidate who was viewed broadly negatively. His plan, it seems, is to try to drag down the favorability of whichever Democrat he ends up running against.
If Trump were to run against de Blasio, it seems safe to assume that he wouldn’t have to do much work. But at this point, it also seems safe to assume that he won’t be running against de Blasio.
Correction: An earlier version of this article included a mislabeled chart.