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Joe Biden Supporters Are Older And More Moderate — And Sticking With Him So Far

Allegations from several women that Joe Biden touched them in ways that they felt were inappropriate — and Biden’s decision to make light of the controversy — don’t appear to be hurting the former vice president’s potential 2020 bid. At least, the share of people saying that Biden is their first choice for the Democratic nomination has basically stayed the same in Morning Consult’s weekly tracking poll. But that might say more about where Biden’s support is coming from than the Democratic electorate as a whole — older and more moderate Democrats (both before and after these accusations) were significantly more likely to support Biden than younger and more liberal ones were.

After a week full of coverage of the accusations against Biden, he still leads the Democratic field in the latest Morning Consult poll — even though he hasn’t yet said whether he is running. According to the survey, which was conducted April 1-71 and released Tuesday, about 32 percent of Democrats favor Biden among the 2020 Democratic candidates; that’s essentially unchanged from his support in the previous week’s poll of 33 percent.2

Biden’s 2020 support has barely budged

Morning Consult’s weekly national Democratic primary poll

candidate March 25-31 April 1-7 Change
Joe Biden 33.4% 32.1% -1.3
Bernie Sanders 24.8 23.4 -1.4
Kamala Harris 8.1 8.6 +0.5
Beto O’Rourke 8.1 7.8 -0.3
Elizabeth Warren 6.8 6.9 +0.1
Pete Buttigieg 3.4 4.7 +1.3
Cory Booker 4.4 4.2 -0.2
Amy Klobuchar 2.4 2.3 -0.1
Other 2.6 2.1 -0.5
Kirsten Gillibrand 1.3 1.5 +0.2
Julian Castro 1.1 1.2 +0.1
John Hickenlooper 0.9 0.8 -0.1
Jay Inslee 0.5 0.6 +0.1
John Delaney 0.5 0.6 +0.1
Steve Bullock 0.7 0.6 -0.1
Tulsi Gabbard 0.6 0.6 +0.0
Terry McAuliffe 0.4 0.4 +0.0

The March 25-31 poll was conducted among 12,940 likely Democratic primary voters; the April 1-7 poll was conducted among 13,644 likely Democratic primary voters.

But, notably, Biden’s favorability ratings according to Morning Consult’s weekly poll have dropped (though they’re still very good). His net favorability rating (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) has gone from +66 percentage points to +61. And a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted April 5-7 does suggest concern in the party about the allegations against Biden. Thirty-three percent of Democrats said the allegations made them view Biden less favorably, while a majority said they either made no difference (48 percent) or that they made them view Biden more favorably (10 percent).

So the allegations may be hampering Biden’s ability to gain new supporters. Indeed, when you dig into Morning Consult’s weekly data, you see that Biden’s current supporters may be more predisposed than the Democratic electorate overall to look past the accusations.

In the April 1-7 poll, Biden was just as strong with women voters (33 percent of women chose Biden as their first choice) and men (31 percent). He was a bit more popular with black Democrats (39 percent) than white ones (31 percent.) But he was significantly stronger among Democrats who describe themselves as moderates (40 percent) and conservatives (40 percent) than among liberals (28 percent). He was also stronger among Democrats ages 65 and older (42 percent) and ages 55 to 64 (37 percent), compared with people who are 18 to 29 (22 percent) or 30 to 44 (25 percent.)3

We don’t have a lot of polling about differences in views among Democrats on issues surrounding sexual harassment, but there is some evidence that Biden-leaning groups (older and more moderate voters) may be more skeptical of #MeToo stories and allegations. A Pew Research Center survey conducted early last year found that moderate and conservative Democrats were more likely than liberal Democrats to be worried about women making false accusations of sexual harassment and men being fired before a proper investigation of allegations against them. Older people overall, according to the survey, are more likely than younger ones to feel that the current attention on sexual harassment has made it harder for men to know how to interact with women in workplaces.

It’s still very early, of course, and a lot of things could change if/when Biden officially enters the race. But the divides in Biden’s support, by age and ideology in particular, are worth thinking about even if they don’t last. Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party is ideologically and demographically diverse, made up of Christians and non-Christians, white people and people of color and about an equal number of moderates/conservatives and liberals. So where divides will emerge is sometimes difficult to predict. We didn’t include an “old” bloc of Democrats when we did our five corners of the primary electorate because millennials were a more clearly defined constituency in recent primaries. We focused on “the left” and not moderates, although we did think moderates could galvanize around Biden in particular.

Generally speaking, white (as opposed to non-white), college-educated (as opposed to people without college degrees) and younger Democrats tend to be more liberal. So it’s hard to know whether older Democrats are driven to Biden largely because of his age or because they perceive him as more moderate — those factors may be directly linked and difficult to disentangle, even for voters. (In other words, voters might see an older white man as more moderate regardless of what his stated positions are.)

But the resilience of Biden’s early polling (at least so far) does point to some things about the Democratic electorate that don’t tend to get much attention from the news media.

We may have a “wokeness divide.” Many of the 2020 Democratic candidates are racing to out-left one another, and the result has been some surprising moves. For example, several of the candidates have embraced a proposal to create a commission that would look at the legacy of slavery and the idea of offering reparations to the descendants of slaves. Polls show that Democratic voters are increasingly liberal on issues of gender and race. But Stanford political scientist Hakeem Jefferson, who studies the intersection of American politics and social psychology, has argued that some of these polls may be overstating the “wokeness” of the party. Some Democrats may feel that they have to give the “right” answers to these questions when asked by pollsters, he said, but don’t really hold these leftward positions.

There may be a relatively large bloc of Democrats who have some reservations about the #MeToo movement and either are unconcerned about the accusations against Biden or are even more motivated to back him because of the criticism. (According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday, Biden is the current favorite of California Democrats, at 26 percent. When respondents were asked about the controversy surrounding how Biden touches women, 24 percent of California Democrats said they felt that the allegations were a “serious issue,” compared with 71 percent who said they were not.)

We may have a Twitter/activist vs. non-Twitter/non-activist divide. Political journalists, myself included, spend a lot of time on Twitter. But the Democrats who regularly use Twitter are disproportionately liberal, well-educated and white. Biden’s potential support may have been undervalued at the start of this campaign because he is strongest among older and more moderate voters. These voters are probably not spending their time tweeting about how much they like the former vice president — because many of them are not tweeting at all.

From ABC News:

Biden makes first appearance since complaints about unwelcome touching

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


  1. Among 13,644 likely Democratic primary voters.

  2. We’re focusing on Morning Consult data here because it conducted a full national polls both before and after Lucy Flores’s essay about Biden’s behavior was published by New York magazine on March 29. No other high-quality pollsters have released surveys in the past week.

  3. Bernie Sanders is actually ahead of Biden among 18-to-29-year-olds (39 percent) and 30-to-44-year-olds (30 percent.)

Perry Bacon Jr. was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.