Below them, the Post-ABC poll finds former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg has 8 percent support, nearly tied with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) at 7 percent. In the rear are business executive Tom Steyer (2 percent) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii (1 percent).
The Post-ABC poll largely mirrors two other national polls conducted after last week’s New Hampshire primary. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found Sanders still ahead by double digits but with a slightly lower 27 percent support. It also found Buttigieg with slightly higher support (13 percent) than he garnered in the Post-ABC poll.
An NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll also was similar to the Post-ABC poll but found slightly higher support for Bloomberg (19 percent), narrowly followed by Biden at 15 percent. All of the other candidates had support within a couple of points or less.
2. Biden’s once-dominant support with African Americans is eroding
Black Democrats were crucial to the Democratic nomination wins for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008, and they were the backbone of Biden’s support at the start of this year. In early January, a Washington Post-Ipsos poll found 48 percent of black Democratic voters supported Biden for the nomination, more than twice the level of support for any other candidate.
But in the latest Post-ABC poll, Biden’s support has fallen to 31 percent among black Democratic voters, with Sanders nearly matching him at 28 percent. Those results are identical to an NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll which included an oversample of black voters. While the size of Biden’s losses are striking, the fact that Sanders has emerged as the chief alternative should not be surprising. The January Post-Ipsos poll found 71 percent of black Democratic-leaning adults had a favorable rating of Sanders, slightly below Biden’s 78 percent and higher than any other candidate tested. Sanders was also the first choice for 20 percent of black Democratic voters and the second choice for another 24 percent of the group.
It remains unclear whether Biden has lost as much support among black voters in South Carolina, whose primary is on Feb. 29, days before Super Tuesday. The state marks a critical test of candidates’ abilities to appeal to black voters, who made up roughly 6 in 10 primary voters in 2016.
3. What Democrats think about Mike Bloomberg’s candidacy
The latest Post-ABC poll finds Bloomberg with 14 percent support nationwide among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters. That puts him in the fight for second-place alongside Biden at 16 percent and Warren at 12 percent.
That’s a significant improvement from a January Post-ABC poll, where Bloomberg had 8 percent support, and his growth has been fueled by increasing appeal to older voters and white voters with college degrees.
His current 14 percent support in the Post-ABC poll matches an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll in the field over the same time period and is a bit lower than the 19 percent he garnered in a Feb. 13-16 NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll.
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents largely see Bloomberg’s views as “about right,” with 57 percent saying this about him in the Post-ABC poll, as opposed to “too conservative” (15 percent) or “too liberal” (11 percent). The “about right” rating is roughly on par or slightly below what Democrats say about the other Democratic candidates. Just over 6 in 10 say the same about Biden, Warren and Sanders.
Electability is also a relatively strong point for Bloomberg. Just below 7 in 10 leaned Democrats expect that Bloomberg would beat Trump in November (69 percent), similar to the share who say Sanders (72 percent) or Biden (68 percent) would beat Trump in the Post-ABC poll. Smaller shares say the same about Warren (58 percent), Buttigieg (55 percent) and Klobuchar (49 percent).
But Democrats are not united behind Bloomberg as the best candidate for the job of defeating the president: Just under 2 in 10 say Bloomberg has the best chance out of all the Democrats to beat Trump, and a roughly identical share say the same of Biden. More, 3 in 10 Democrats and Democratic leaners say Sanders is the best candidate to beat Trump.
4. Voters’ second choices are scattered, making it difficult for Sanders’s challengers to consolidate support
One important finding from the latest Post-ABC poll is that after Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has become competitive nationally, well beyond his base of strong liberals and younger voters. He has significant or narrow edges among men and women, moderate-to-conservative voters and whites with and without college degrees. He’s also drawn nearly even with Biden among black Democrats.
That broad-based appeal poses a significant challenge for candidates hoping to consolidate support of other candidates who drop out. The Post-ABC poll included a question about voters’ second choices, making it possible to look at how the race might shift if any individual candidate dropped out today.
If Biden’s 16 percent supporters are assigned to their second choice, Sanders’s lead would expand to 37 percent backing him (+5 from where he stands), followed by 17 percent for Bloomberg (+3), 14 percent for Warren (+2), 10 percent for Buttigieg (+2) and 9 percent for Klobuchar (+2).
Sanders might benefit most if Warren dropped from the race, with Sanders gaining six points (to 38 percent) when her supporters are assigned to their second choice, expanding his lead to 21 points over Biden (17 percent in this scenario). Buttigieg gains two points to 10 percent, while no other Democrat gains more than a point.
Likewise, Warren would gain the most if Sanders dropped out, gaining 11 points. In the unlikely event of a Sanders dropout, Biden and Bloomberg each gain five points, Buttigieg four points and the rest two points or less.
Bloomberg supporters scatter widely in their second choices, with Biden gaining four points in that scenario, Sanders and Buttigieg three points each, and Warren two points.
5. Single-payer health care is popular with most Democrats, but not the public overall
Just over 6 in 10 Democrats support replacing all private health insurance with a single government plan for everyone, according to the latest Post-ABC poll.
Support rises a bit among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are under age 50 (72 percent) and self-described liberals (72 percent), two of Sanders’s key support groups.
But while there is majority support among Democrats, the policy is less popular nationally with 41 percent in support while 52 percent are opposed, including almost 8 in 10 Republicans and just over half of independents.
Support for government-provided health-care plans has proved to be a good predictor for vote choice in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, 6 in 10 Democratic caucus-goers supported a single-payer plan, according to network entrance polls in that state, and 34 percent of them voted for Sanders, double-digits more than that group voted for any other candidate.
In New Hampshire, exit polling found a similar 58 percent of Democratic primary voters saying they supported a single-payer, health-care system, and Sanders won them 39 percent to 21 percent over Buttigieg, with other candidates further behind.
If Nevada caucus-goers are similarly supportive of single-payer health insurance, that could bode well for Sanders’s campaign this Saturday.