HPU Poll: Among Democratic Candidates, Biden, Sanders and Warren Have Most Primary Election Support

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HIGH POINT, N.C., Sept. 30, 2019 – The High Point University Poll finds that self-identified Democrats in North Carolina give former Vice President Joe Biden the highest favorability rating (70%) among the declared Democratic candidates for president of the United States. Biden also has support of 31% of these same Democrats if they were voting in the Democratic presidential primary right now.

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were respectively second and third in both favorability within their party here in North Carolina and Democratic support in the primary. Sanders has a favorability rating of 61% with self-identified North Carolina Democrats and would have the support of 20% of those surveyed if the primary were today. Warren has a 53% favorability rating and primary support of 15% of poll respondents.

The other seven candidates tested were those who qualified for the Sept. 12 Democratic primary debate and include Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang. None of these other candidates had favorability ratings above 50% or primary support above 10% among these self-identified N.C. Democrats.

The HPU Poll also finds that interest in the Democratic primary field may be relatively high, as 41% of these self-identified Democrats in North Carolina said they have given a lot of thought to candidates who may be running for president in 2020. Sixty-one percent said they have already watched at least some of the Democratic presidential primary debates.

“Even though we are still early in the presidential campaign, there are signs of increasing interest among self-identified Democratic voters,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll and chair of HPU’s political science department. “As the race heats up, we should expect to see some changes in relative support for candidates. The candidates and their positions are becoming better known to voters.”

NOTE: This release includes results for self-identified Democrats only, but the memo associated with the release includes overall results, as well as crosstabs by respondents’ self-identified political identification (Democrat, Republican, Independent/Unaffiliated).

Self-Identified Democrat Adults – Thought Given to Candidates (September 2019)

poll results

How much thought, if any, have you given to candidates who may be running for president in 2020? A lot, some, not much, or none at all?         

A lot – 41%

Some – 36%

Not much – 15%

None at all – 7%

(Don’t know/refuse) – 2%

(Self-Identified North Carolina Democrats phone and online sample, surveyed September 13 – 19, 2019, n = 348 and credibility interval of +/- 6.4%)

Self-Identified Democrat Adults – Favorability of Democrats (September 2019)

Here is a list of people who are running or might run for the Democratic nomination for President, please indicate whether you have a favorable or unfavorable view of each one. If you have never heard of one of the candidates, feel free to say so.

Self-Identified N.C. Democrats (n=348)

Name Favorable Unfavorable Unsure/have not heard of
Joe Biden 70% 20% 11%
Bernie Sanders 61% 25% 14%
Elizabeth Warren 53% 24% 24%
Kamala Harris 46% 25% 29%
Cory Booker 39% 22% 39%
Beto O’Rourke 34% 26% 40%
Pete Buttigieg 30% 24% 46%
Andrew Yang 30% 24% 46%
Julian Castro 24% 29% 47%
Amy Klobuchar 22% 24% 54%

(Self-Identified North Carolina Democrats phone and online sample, surveyed September 13 – 19, 2019, n = 348 and credibility interval of +/- 6.4%)

Self-Identified Democrat Adults – Choice in Democratic Primary (September 2019)

I know it’s a long way off, but if the Democratic Primary for President of the United States were today, and you were filling out a Democratic primary ballot now, who would you vote for?

Self-Identified NC Democrats (n=348)

Name Support
Joe Biden 31%
Bernie Sanders 20%
Elizabeth Warren 15%
Kamala Harris 6%
Cory Booker 4%
Andrew Yang 4%
Pete Buttigieg 3%
Julian Castro 1%
Amy Klobuchar 1%
Beto O’Rourke 1%
(Undecided) 9%
(Don’t know/refused) 4%

(Self-Identified North Carolina Democrats phone and online sample, surveyed September 13 – 19, 2019, n = 348 and credibility interval of +/- 6.4%)

Registered Voters – Watch Democratic Debates (September 2019)

Have you watched any of the Democratic presidential campaign debates?

Yes – 61%

No – 36%

Don’t know/refuse – 3%

(Self-Identified North Carolina Democrats phone and online sample, surveyed September 13 – 19, 2019, n = 348 and credibility interval of +/- 6.4%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on September 13 – 19, 2019 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 1030 adults interviewed online (802 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (228 respondents). For the purposes of this release, respondents were also asked about their political party identification to which 348 respondents said they were Democrats. The Survey Research Center contracted with Dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ to acquire these samples, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. This is a combined sample of live phone interviews and online interviews. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.1 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.2 (based on the weighting). For the Democrat subsample, the estimated credibility interval is 6.4 percentage points. The full data set is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race, and education level based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2019/09/66memoC.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see


You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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