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Poll: Biden leads Democratic field, Warren drops to third place

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE leads the field of Democratic presidential contenders nationally, while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCan Biden find a third way between Trumpism and Obama-era globalism? Left seeks to influence Biden picks while signaling unity Schwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration MORE (D-Mass.) has seen her front-runner status slip, according to the Monmouth University poll released on Tuesday.

The poll shows Biden in the top spot with 26 percent support. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Sanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal MORE (I-Vt.), meanwhile, finished in second place with 21 percent support, just within the survey’s 5-point margin of error. 

Warren finished in third place with 17 percent support — a 6-point drop since Monmouth’s last national primary poll in November and 11 points down from where she was in a similar September survey. Still, she’s not far behind Sanders, and her favorability among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters ties that of Biden at 76 percent.

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South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year 'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' MORE (D), who has gained momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent months, sits in a distant fourth place with 8 percent support in the nominating contest, according to the Monmouth poll. That’s statistically identical to the 9 percent support he notched in the university’s November survey.

The poll results suggest that, less than two months before voting begins in the nominating contest, the top tier of the primary field remains fluid, with no single candidate pulling away from the rest of the pack. 

There’s some evidence that former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE, who entered the primary contest only last month, has seen some early traction at the national level. He took the fifth-place spot in the Monmouth poll with 5 percent support, putting him narrowly ahead of rivals who have been campaigning for months like Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate committee advances bill for national Latino museum Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic MORE (D-Minn.), who finished in sixth place with 4 percent support. 

That early success may be due in part to Bloomberg’s aggressive approach to paid media.

The billionaire businessman, who has said he has no plans to compete in the first four primary and caucus states, has already spent tens of millions of dollars of his personal fortune on national advertising campaigns, helping him drive name recognition after a late entrance into the presidential race.

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The Monmouth poll also carries warning signs for Bloomberg. Only 40 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters surveyed reported a favorable opinion of the former New York City mayor, putting him behind Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' MORE on that front.

Among all registered voters surveyed, Bloomberg’s favorability is at a meager 26 percent, well behind President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE, who notched 46 percent favorability. That’s a shaky start for a candidate who was driven into the race by the belief that he was best positioned to defeat Trump in 2020.

“Bloomberg said he got into this race because he wants to defeat Trump, but his campaign kicks off with even lower ratings than the incumbent,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “That is not the most auspicious start, but views of Bloomberg are not as deeply held as they are for Trump, so he has room to shift those opinions.”

Still, there’s a sense among U.S. voters that it’s time for a change in the White House. The poll shows a slight majority of voters — 54 percent — want to elect a different president in 2020, while 43 percent believe Trump should be elected to a second term in the Oval Office.

Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters are also more motivated by the prospect of defeating Trump in 2020 than in electing a candidate they are ideologically aligned with, the poll found. Fifty-six percent said they would rather nominate a candidate they do not agree with but would perform well in a matchup against Trump than choose someone that shares their values but would have a tough time beating the incumbent.

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Among those who prioritize electability in the Democratic nominating contest, 31 percent support Biden, according to the Monmouth poll. Warren and Sanders are statistically tied on that front, coming in at 18 percent and 17 percent, while only 8 percent chose Buttigieg.

Sanders has the most support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters who see issue alignment as more important, with 33 percent. Biden and Warren are tied among those voters with 15 percent each. Buttigieg carried 12 percent of respondents who prioritized issue alignment over electability, the Monmouth poll found.

The Monmouth University poll surveyed 838 registered voters, including 384 registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters, from Dec. 4 to 8. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points for the full sample and 5 points for the sample of Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents.