NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Poll Watch: New poll shows Kamala Harris gaining, record enthusiasm ahead of 2020

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.

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