In a new poll of South Carolina voters released following the results of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, Joe Biden holds a clear lead over his Democratic rivals.
The survey by Public Policy Polling (NPI’s public opinion research partner) shows the former Vice President’s support at 36%. Senator Bernie Sanders came a distant second, at 21%. No other Democratic candidate broke into the double digits.
This poll bucks the trend of previous surveys in the Palmetto State (which had Biden and Sanders within a few points of each other), indicating that the “comeback” loudly proclaimed by Biden’s campaign after his (distant) second-place finish in Nevada might be more than just hot air.
Biden’s rise in the polls seems to be driven in large part by a collapse for Tom Steyer; the Californian billionaire’s support has dropped by more than half to 7%.
This would seem to indicate two things:
- firstly, that Biden’s result in Nevada was good enough to reassure voters looking for an alternative to Bernie Sanders that Biden is their man;
- and second, that Tom Steyer’s tactic of spending inordinate sums on TV and Internet campaign ads – like he did in Nevada, to no avail – is not working.
Biden’s lead in South Carolina stems from the overwhelming support of black voters. While the race is very tight between the candidates among white voters (Sanders sits at 22%, Biden at 20%, Warren and Buttigieg at 15%), Biden dominates among African Americans, with 50% supporting him.
Biden has spent his entire campaign emphasizing his role in the administration of America’s first black president, and also has relationships within the black community that go back half a century to his time as a county council member and then a United States Senator from Delaware.
Biden’s team should not rest on their laurels in South Carolina, though. Bernie Sanders, who cemented his front-runner status in Nevada, also proved in that contest that he is capable of gathering enormous support from minority voters. Sanders currently leads nationally among black, Latino and Asian voters, and has been the most popular candidate among young African Americans for months.
Sanders’ support among young people is particularly important for South Carolina, as a critical part of his success in Nevada seems to have been the fact that motivated young supporters of color persuaded their parents to support him – which resulted in him outperforming his polling by over 10%.
If Sanders’ grassroots movement can reproduce that phenomenon, he may give Biden more of a run for his money than the Vice President is expecting.