Senator Kamala Harris
California Senator Kamala Harris passes the microphone at the "Linking Together: March to Save Our Care" Rally at the U.S. Capitol on June 28, 2017. (Photo: Mobilus In Mobili, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

CNN released a poll on Tues­day show­ing a notable increase in sup­port among like­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers for Cal­i­for­nia Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris in her bid to be the party’s 2020 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. Har­ris has tripled her sup­port since Decem­ber of last year, ris­ing from 4% to 12%, and now stands in third place among a field of over a dozen con­tenders for the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion, behind for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden (28%) and Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders (20%).

Sanders has declared his can­di­da­cy, while Biden is still mulling a bid.

The one oth­er con­tender to reach dou­ble dig­its was Beto O’Rourke (11%), the for­mer Texas U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive who threw his hat in the ring last Thurs­day. 

The growth in Har­ris’ sup­port is espe­cial­ly remark­able when com­pared to the rate of growth that her rivals saw in the same peri­od. Bernie Sanders increased his sup­port by 6% and O’Rourke only man­aged a 2% increase (although his just-launched cam­paign has had less time to build steam than oth­er candidates). 

Mean­while, the would-be front-run­ner Joe Biden (who has hint­ed he might run, but has­n’t jumped in) has actu­al­ly dropped two points since Decem­ber.  

Break­ing down the num­bers also shows pos­i­tive signs for Harris. 

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s base has become increas­ing­ly diverse, female and left-lean­ing in recent years, and the biggest jumps in sup­port for the Cal­i­for­nia Sen­a­tor came from women (+9), lib­er­als (+10), and racial minori­ties (+10).

As a woman of col­or from one of the nation’s most reli­ably pro­gres­sive states (and also its largest state), Har­ris is per­haps bet­ter posi­tioned to con­nect with Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers than any of her main rivals – all of whom are white men. 

That being said, Sen­a­tor Har­ris has a long uphill climb ahead of her if she wants to catch up with Sanders and Biden, men who have been in the pub­lic eye for years and have spent that time build­ing name recog­ni­tion and loy­al fol­low­ings. 

Senator Kamala Harris
Cal­i­for­nia Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris pass­es the micro­phone at the “Link­ing Togeth­er: March to Save Our Care” Ral­ly at the U.S. Capi­tol on June 28, 2017. (Pho­to:
Mobilus In Mobili, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Look­ing beyond the pri­maries, the CNN poll (con­duct­ed by SSRS) shows promis­ing signs for who­ev­er becomes the Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger to Don­ald Trump. 

The per­cent­age of those who have a favor­able opin­ion of the Pres­i­dent has hov­ered around 40% for his entire pres­i­den­cy, while his unfa­vor­able num­bers have wavered any­where between 50% and 61%. By com­par­i­son, Barack Obama’s unfa­vor­able num­ber nev­er exceed­ed 51% for his entire pres­i­den­cy. Trump is a fero­cious­ly dis­liked man: 59% do not think he cares about them, 62% think he is dis­hon­est, 63% think he is divi­sive, and 60% are ashamed that he is the Pres­i­dent. 

There’s more: Accord­ing to this lat­est poll, 64% of respon­dents were either “extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic” or “very enthu­si­as­tic” about vot­ing in 2020 – the high­est rate since 2004, when poll­sters began ask­ing this question. 

His­tor­i­cal­ly, high vot­er enthu­si­asm and turnout have aid­ed Democ­rats; the leg­endary con­ser­v­a­tive leader Paul Weyrich famous­ly quipped that Repub­li­can Par­ty’s “lever­age in the elec­tions quite can­did­ly goes up as the vot­ing pop­u­la­tion goes down!”

Last year’s midterms showed that Democ­rats do bet­ter when par­tic­i­pa­tion is broad­er, with record-break­ing turnout hand­ing con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the Democ­rats despite many dis­tricts being gerrymandered.

While this is only one poll, Democ­rats can take com­fort from its find­ings: Don­ald Trump is very vul­ner­a­ble, the Amer­i­can peo­ple are enthu­si­as­tic about par­tic­i­pat­ing in 2020, and the con­test for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion (which fea­tures a wide and diverse field) will be an unpar­al­leled par­ty­build­ing opportunity.

Adjacent posts