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Most 2020 Candidates Have Something In Common: Their Supporters Also Like Warren

At this stage in the Democratic primary, many likely Democratic voters are still considering multiple candidates — and this was true for more than two-thirds of respondents in our poll with Ipsos. Which got us thinking, how many respondents were only considering one candidate?

FiveThirtyEight partnered with Ipsos to conduct a poll, using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, that asked respondents who they were thinking about voting for and allowed them to pick multiple candidates (or “someone else,” or no one). And while most respondents in the post-debate round of polling were considering more than one candidate (66 percent of respondents), 33 percent only picked one candidate.1

And as you can see in the table below, about a fifth of former Vice President Joe Biden’s supporters weren’t considering supporting anyone else, a higher share of exclusive supporters than any other candidate. Likewise, 14.6 percent of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s potential supporters weren’t looking anywhere else.

Which candidates’ supporters are considering only them?

Share of each candidates’ supporters who are only considering voting for that candidate, according to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll

candidate Exclusive* Total Share
Biden 218 996 21.9%
Sanders 100 683 14.6
Gabbard 11 83 13.1
O’Rourke 29 245 11.7
Warren 107 917 11.6
Yang 14 187 7.4
Buttigieg 27 437 6.2
Castro 6 105 5.7
Harris 23 433 5.2
Klobuchar 8 180 4.2
Booker 4 201 2.2
Steyer 1 84 1.4

*Only considering one candidate

From a survey of 1,761 likely Democratic primary voters who were surveyed from Oct. 15 to Oct. 16.

So what do we make of the fact that such a high share of Biden’s and Sanders’s potential supporters were only considering them? It’s definitely a good sign for their campaigns, as it might be harder for other candidates to win these voters over. But it’s also not the only way to understand the strength of someone’s campaign, especially at this early stage in the primary. If you’re a candidate, getting a lot of voters to at least consider supporting you is important, too, as it means you’re still in the hunt for their vote, and the other candidates on a voter’s list tells you something about what parts of the party your message is appealing to.

Overall, more respondents were considering Biden than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (56.5 to 52.1 percent), but Warren actually shares a lot of potential supporters with the other candidates. Take the rest of the top five candidates — Biden, Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The lion’s share of voters who were considering each of those four were also considering Warren — even though Biden had more total potential supporters. Sanders was also being considered, but the percentage of respondents who also chose him wasn’t as large.

And it isn’t just among the top five candidates whose potential supporters were also thinking about Warren. For all but three candidates — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire Tom Steyer — the person they were most likely to share potential supporters with was Warren. (Gabbard shares the most potential supporters with Sanders and businessman Andrew Yang, while Klobuchar and Steyer share the most with Biden.)

It’s clear Warren appeals to a wide range of Democratic voters, which puts her in a good position to gain supporters if another candidate drops out of the race. But she’s not alone in that position — just as many potential supporters of other candidates are considering Warren, many of Warren’s potential supporters are considering other candidates. So if Warren’s campaign were to run into trouble, candidates like Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris could stand to benefit.


  1. We only looked at who respondents were considering after the debate, so it’s possible that they were previously considering more than one candidate or a different candidate altogether.

Julia Wolfe is FiveThirtyEight’s former senior editor, data visualization.

Laura Bronner is a senior applied scientist at ETH Zürich and FiveThirtyEight’s former quantitative editor.