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Is Biden’s Bounce Over?

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Democratic presidential candidates may be stuck in a holding pattern for the next month, with few opportunities to shake up the race between now and the first primary debate. That’s probably fine by former Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged as the early polling front-runner since officially entering the race on April 25. But is Biden’s polling bounce starting to fade?

Well, based on recent surveys, there is evidence that while Biden remains in the lead, his post-announcement polling surge has leveled off. Morning Consult’s latest tracking poll, for example, found Biden with 38 percent support nationally, down from a peak of 40 percent in early May. Quinnipiac University has also conducted Democratic primary polls multiple times since Biden entered the race, and it found Biden at 35 percent in a poll released on May 21, compared with 38 percent in a poll conducted right after his campaign announcement in April. If you compare his performance in national and state surveys taken in the three-week period that followed his campaign announcement — when he, like other candidates, experienced a surge in support — with the polls that were taken in the 10 days after that stretch, his average has dropped, to 35.0 percent from 36.6 percent.1

However, Biden is still well ahead of where he was before his campaign announcement. In the three weeks leading up to his kickoff, his polling average was 24 percent — 13 points lower than his average in the three weeks that followed his announcement. Biden’s post-announcement bump was especially large compared with the post-launch bounces of other candidates we can compare him with2 — as you can see in the table below, no other candidate saw an increase of more than 8 points.

Biden’s post-announcement bump was big

Change in polling average of Democratic presidential candidates three weeks before kickoff and the three weeks that followed

Polling Average
Candidate Before Announcement After Announcement Change
Biden 23.9% 36.6% +12.7
Harris 5.3 12.9 +7.6
Sanders 15.2 22.4 +7.2
Booker 3.1 6.4 +3.4
Castro 0.0 2.7 +2.7
O’Rourke 5.5 8.1 +2.6
Klobuchar 2.0 3.4 +1.3
Warren 6.3 7.7 +1.3
Inslee 0.0 1.0 +1.0
Gillibrand 1.0 1.5 +0.5
Bennet 0.0 0.5 +0.5
Swalwell 0.3 0.6 +0.2
Moulton 0.0 0.2 +0.2
Hickenlooper 0.8 0.7 -0.1

For candidates considered “major” by FiveThirtyEight. Excluding those who were not polled before their kickoffs and those who announced too recently for us to have three weeks of polling post-announcement.

Source: Polls

Granted, post-announcement surges often fade — as we’re starting to see with Biden. But he still has a sizable lead in the polls. That Morning Consult poll found him 18 points ahead of Bernie Sanders, who had 20 percent support. No other candidate was in the double digits. And Biden remains very popular among Democrats. Morning Consult also asked respondents how they felt about the candidates, and Biden’s 76 percent favorable rating was the highest. So it’s clear that his primary rivals have plenty of work to do if they want to overtake him.

Other polling bites

  • Echelon Insights tested Biden in head-to-head matchups against four of his Democratic primary opponents and found him polling above 60 percent against all of them. Biden led Bernie Sanders 61 percent to 25 percent, Kamala Harris 63 percent to 20 percent, Pete Buttigieg 65 percent to 17 percent and Elizabeth Warren 66 percent to 19 percent.
  • Morning Consult found that Democratic candidates have struggled to gain greater name recognition3 since Biden joined the race — no candidate has seen more than a 3-point increase in name recognition during that period.
  • A Pew Research Center analysis found that three younger generations accounted for slightly more votes in the 2018 midterms than older ones. Generation X, millennial and Generation Z voters cast 62.2 million votes while baby boomers and older generations cast 60.1 million.defines generations based on the following birth years: baby boomers as anyone born from 1946 to 1964, Generation X from 1965 to 1980, millennial from 1981 to 1996, and Generation Z from 1997 on. ">4
  • A new Monmouth University survey asked about trade and tariffs. It found that Americans are divided on whether imposing tariffs on goods imported from other countries is good for the U.S. and that they have a relatively positive view of free trade agreements with other countries. Overall, 51 percent said such agreements were good, 14 percent said they were bad and 29 percent said they were not sure. The share of people with a positive view of the deals is up from November 2015, when 24 percent said they thought free trade agreements were good.
  • In a poll of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which is holding a do-over election on Sept. 10, JMC Analytics and Polling found the Republican nominee, Dan Bishop, slightly ahead of the Democratic nominee, Dan McCready — 46 percent to 42 percent. According to the survey, President Trump has a 55 percent job approval rating in the district.
  • In Canada, the governing Liberal Party’s prospects in the upcoming general election still look poor. The latest Nanos tracking poll found the Conservatives winning 35 percent to the Liberals’ 29 percent, with the New Democratic Party at 16 percent and the Green Party at 12 percent.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.2 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -13.0 points). At this time last week, 41.2 percent approved and 53.9 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -12.7 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.1 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.3 percent, for a net approval rating of -12.2 points.

From ABC News:

Joe Biden holding 1st major campaign rally in a key battleground state

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


  1. To calculate a polling average for each of these time periods, I used every poll that had been entered into the FiveThirtyEight database as of May 30.

  2. Excluding candidates not considered “major” according to FiveThirtyEight’s definition, along with any who were not polled before their announcements and any for whom there was less than three weeks of polling data available after their launch.

  3. Measured as the sum of a candidate’s favorable rating, unfavorable rating and the share of people who say they have heard of the candidate but hold no opinion.

  4. Pew defines generations based on the following birth years: baby boomers as anyone born from 1946 to 1964, Generation X from 1965 to 1980, millennial from 1981 to 1996, and Generation Z from 1997 on.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.