POLITICS

The 2020 Contender Getting The Most Buzz Isn't Even An Official Candidate

Here's who Democratic voters are paying attention to, according to a new poll.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is getting more positive attention than declared Democratic presidential candidates are.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is getting more positive attention than declared Democratic presidential candidates are.

Joe Biden hasn’t officially declared a presidential run, but he’s still getting more positive attention than anyone else in the field, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

A 59 percent majority of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they’ve heard something positive about Biden in the past two weeks, whether in the news, via advertising or social media, or from friends and family. The former vice president, who sits at the top of most early horse race polls, has kept speculation about his 2020 plans at a constant low simmer for months ― which has also effectively kept his name in the news even as already-declared candidates hit the campaign trail.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whose announcement earlier this month was accompanied by a cover story in Vanity Fair magazine, has also seen significant favorable attention, with 52 percent saying they’ve heard something positive about him in the past two weeks.

Other candidates who have attracted recent buzz are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (46 percent have heard something positive), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (44 percent), California Sen. Kamala Harris (42 percent) and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (36 percent).

Most of the voters are familiar with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, but fewer than a third have recently heard favorable news about them. And fewer than half say they’ve even heard of any of the other eight candidates listed. (Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is one of those relative unknowns, but stands out for his numbers among those familiar with his name. Nearly three-quarters of the Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters who have heard of him also say they’ve heard recent, positive news about him.)

As with any poll, these numbers come with some caveats. For one thing, because people who take surveys tend to be more civically engaged than average, all the awareness numbers are probably a little high. For another, they don’t translate into a prediction of which candidates voters actually support at the moment, let alone whom they’ll end up backing next year.

The results, however, give a broad sense of which 2020 hopefuls are currently proving best able to draw public attention in a dense field. And they may also help to shed some light on a more nebulous area of discussion: which candidates have benefited most from the volume and tenor of the press coverage they’ve received.

Perceptions about coverage ― especially its tone ― are often anecdotal, based on individual media diets and social circles. But there’s some data available on the amount of airtime contenders have received. So far, O’Rourke and Sanders have seen the most cable-TV coverage following their announcements, according to recent analysis from FiveThirtyEight, with Booker, Harris, Klobuchar and Warren seeing smaller bumps.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 19 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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