Biden holds a sizable lead over the rest of the field heading into Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday that shows his standing bolstered by strong support from black voters.
The poll found 36 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support Biden. He was followed by Sanders, with 16 percent, and Steyer, with 15 percent. Trailing further behind were Warren, with 8 percent, Buttigieg, with 6 percent, Klobuchar with 4 percent, and Gabbard, with 1 percent.
An NBC News-Marist poll released earlier this week showed a much tighter race for the top position, with Biden drawing support of 27 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the Palmetto State compared to 23 percent for Sanders.
The Monmouth poll found that black voters, who typically account for a majority of the Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina, back Biden (45 percent) by a wide margin over Steyer (17 percent) and Sanders (13 percent). Among white voters, the race is more divided, with Biden drawing 26 percent, compared to 17 percent for Sanders, 13 percent for both Warren and Buttigieg and 12 percent for Steyer.
“Biden appears to be holding on to his core support among African Americans in South Carolina,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
He said that Biden’s endorsement on Wednesday by Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) “should help solidify that.”
The poll shows a still-fluid race, with just more than 4 in 10 likely South Carolina primary voters saying they are set on their candidate choice. But Biden and Sanders are the most likely to have their support locked in.
Fifty-nine percent of Biden’s supporters say their support is firmly locked in, as do 57 percent of Sanders’s supporters. Less than half of those backing other candidates are firmly decided.
“A key metric for Biden in this make-or-break state is that his support appears to be firm,” Murray said. “There is still a large chunk of the electorate who are undecided, but they are mainly moderate black voters. That’s a group that tends to like Biden.”
The Monmouth poll suggests that Sanders’s standing among black voters in South Carolina has not improved significantly since 2016, when he lagged far behind Hillary Clinton in the Palmetto State’s primary. According to a 2016 exit poll, Sanders got 14 percent of the black vote in the Democratic primary, about the same support as found in the Monmouth poll. Fewer candidates were on the ballot in 2016, however.
The Monmouth poll was completed after the Nevada caucuses but before Tuesday’s debate in Charleston, S.C. — so the results do not reflect the respective performances on that stage.