Tuesday night’s debate, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register, is the last debate before the voting starts in Iowa, and with just six candidates making the cut, it’s the smallest face-off yet. A lot of voters, though, still haven’t decided whom they’ll vote for. So to give you a sense of how the debate changes (or doesn’t change) the race, we’ve once again partnered with Ipsos to see what Democrats are thinking. The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, conducted using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, is interviewing the same group of voters twice, once on either side of the debate, to capture both the “before” and “after” picture.
The before picture
Who voters are considering
Share of respondents who are considering voting for each candidate
Respondents could pick multiple candidates or ‘someone else.’
The field may be shrinking, but this hasn’t stopped voters in our poll from saying they’re considering multiple candidates, although it does seem as if voters are focusing on four candidates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. About half said they were considering Biden, but that wasn’t too far off from the nearly 43 percent who named Sanders as a possibility. Thirty-seven percent said they’re considering voting for Warren, and about a quarter said they might back Buttigieg. As for the other two candidates on tonight’s stage — Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer — they’ve got a bit up of catching up to do, with only about 10 percent of respondents thinking about supporting them. We’ll be tracking how this list of voters’ maybes changes after the debate. Are they considering fewer candidates? More? And which candidates gained or lost the most potential supporters?
The popularity contest
Candidates’ favorable and unfavorable ratings among likely primary voters
Respondents are also being asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the candidates so we can track who’s well liked and who isn’t. When paired with horse-race polls, favorability ratings can help tell us which candidates have room to expand their coalition and which may already be maxed out. And as you can see, there’s still plenty of room for Klobuchar and Steyer to grow, although time may be running out for them to make a positive impression.
Which matters most: policy positions … or winning?
Share of likely primary voters by whether, if they had to choose, they’d prefer a candidate who has a good chance of beating Trump or a candidate who agrees with them on the issues
Excludes respondents who chose ‘I don’t know enough to say.’
We’re also asking voters what matters more to them — a candidate who agrees with them on the issues or someone who would be a strong candidate against President Trump. As you can see, nearly two-thirds of respondents prefer a candidate who can win the general election.
Who voters think can beat Trump
Respondents’ estimates of the likelihood, from 0 percent (impossible) to 100 percent (certain), that each candidate would beat Trump if they were the Democratic nominee
Finally, we’re asking respondents to estimate each Democrat’s chances of defeating Trump — from 0 percent to 100 percent. Going into the debate, as in other general-election polls, Biden is still the candidate voters think is most likely to beat Trump. On average, though Sanders isn’t too far behind.