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Beto O’Rourke Didn’t Get Much Of A Kickoff Bump, But He’s Not Alone

The presidential rollout parade continues! Since I last wrote about candidates’ polling bumps after they declared their presidential campaigns, Beto O’Rourke has joined the 2020 Democratic primary field, and we’ve gotten full data for a couple of other candidates. But it turns out that none of their entries into the race really caused a bump in their poll numbers, according to one set of polls.

As I did three weeks ago, I used Morning Consult’s weekly national poll of likely Democratic primary voters1 to gauge how much of a splash each presidential candidate’s kickoff made among the public. The chart below shows how O’Rourke’s, John Hickenlooper’s and Jay Inslee’s polling numbers changed after their campaigns launched; six other candidates who announced before March are also included. We’ve excluded candidates whom Morning Consult doesn’t ask about,2 those who declared too early for us to have polling data both before and after their announcements3 and those who haven’t officially declared they’re running.4

O’Rourke had an … interesting campaign launch that has generated some mixed signals. On the bright side for him, he raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours after announcing his candidacy — a sum that topped all other contenders, even small-donor darling Bernie Sanders. But O’Rourke’s bump in the Morning Consult poll was decidedly meh: He went from 7 percent in the poll the week before his March 14 announcement to 8 percent in the poll the week after. Other polls, however, showed larger gains for O’Rourke. He rose by 2 percentage points in CNN’s polling and by 7 points in Emerson College’s polling (although CNN’s pre-announcement poll was taken in December and Emerson’s in February, so there was plenty of time for other events to affect his standing as well). Overall, it appears as though O’Rourke has gotten a smaller bump than Sanders and Kamala Harris, but larger than that of other candidates. However, a pair of The Economist/YouGov polls — one each taken before and after his kickoff — had disappointing news: O’Rourke’s net favorability rating (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) among Democrats fell from +45 points before his announcement to +40 after it, although the changes were within the margin of error. That could reflect the fact that even though O’Rourke got lots of cable-news coverage in the days after his launch, some of it was unflattering.

Inslee and Hickenlooper also underwhelmed. Inslee, the governor of Washington, had been polling at 0 percent before his March 1 announcement, and he inched up to 1 percent the week after he declared. But Hickenlooper, a former governor of Colorado, saw no change — he polled at 1 percent both before and after his March 4 campaign kickoff. One silver lining for Hickenlooper is that Morning Consult found an uptick in the number of people who could form an opinion of him: The week before his announcement, 20 percent of respondents had either a positive or negative opinion of Hickenlooper; the week after, 26 percent did.

And some bad news for all three candidates: As you can see from the chart, candidates’ polling bumps tend to dissipate after their kickoffs, so they’ll need to garner attention some other way to prove that they have staying power in the race.

Derek Shan contributed research.

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 draft: Episode 2


  1. Specifically, the polls are conducted each week from Monday through Sunday among thousands of registered voters “who indicate they may vote in the Democratic primary or caucus” in their state.

  2. E.g., Andrew Yang.

  3. Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren.

  4. Joe Biden, Steve Bullock and Terry McAuliffe.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.