Is it too soon to be polling for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary? Maybe — President Trump launched his re-election campaign right after being sworn in, remember — but pollsters are asking anyway. Former Vice President Joe Biden topped one CNN poll this month, and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) led a MoveOn straw poll, but polling this early "typically doesn't tell you much beyond name recognition," USA Today notes. So, for its poll with Suffolk University, USA Today said it "tested which candidates now seem intriguing to voters, and who turns them off, in an effort to get clues about the dynamic ahead."
The candidate Democratic and independent voters are most excited about? "Someone entirely new," at 59 percent. Biden, 76, stirred excitement from 53 percent of respondents, while 24 percent wanted him to sit out the race. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) generated the third-highest level of excitement, 36 percent, but 41 percent urged him not to run. Thirty percent were excited about O'Rourke, but 35 percent of respondents said they'd never heard of him. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) had a similarly promising excitement-to-recognition ratio. There was broad agreement that Hillary Clinton should not run again.
There were interesting demographic undercurrents in the results — Biden is more popular than someone new among black voters, for example, and Sanders tops the list among Latinos. The entire poll reached 689 Democrats and independents by phone Dec. 11-16, and its margin of error is ±3.7 percentage points.
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"The 'someone new' versus Joe Biden finding illustrates the generational divide within the Democratic Party dating back to Walter Mondale versus Gary Hart in 1984," said Suffolk's David Paleologos. (Mondale won the nomination but lost in a landslide to President Ronald Reagan.) "The test is which candidate can build on their core 'excitement' and not lose the voters of other Democrats who fall by the wayside."
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