New Report: Democrats Unified in Strong Opposition to Trump as Nomination Battle Heats Up

Biden relies heavily on 2016 Clinton primary voters; many of Sanders’ 2016 supporters have defected to Warren.

WASHINGTON--()--As Democratic voters get ready to caucus in Iowa, the nomination fight remains up in the air, with no clear favorite. As the campaign heats up, news media coverage has highlighted tensions within the party and some pundits suggest that hard feelings could result in defections from the eventual nominee, boosting President Trump’s re-election prospects.

But a new study based on two recent opinion surveys indicates that despite some warning signs, Democrats remain remarkably united in their strong disapproval of President Donald Trump. Although notable fractures within the party could threaten its unity, very few Democrats say they will support Trump in November.

In the new Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report, “The Great Wide Open: Democrats Remain Divided on Candidates, United in Opposing Trump,” John Sides, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, and Robert Griffin, Research Director of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, provide a nuanced perspective on Democratic voters’ views on the party’s presidential candidates and President Trump heading into primaries. The study uses data from the December 2019 VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) and Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape, a large weekly survey of voters that is led by a team of researchers from UCLA in partnership with the Voter Study Group and fielded by Lucid.

Among the report’s key findings:

The State of the Democratic Electorate

  • Despite a contentious primary, Democrats tend to view their party’s leading candidates overwhelmingly positively: The net favorability of Biden (+48), Sanders (+50) and Warren (+59) suggest a general approval with these candidates.
  • Only 16 percent of 2016 Bernie Sanders primary voters say they intend to vote for him in the 2020 Democratic primary, while 42 percent support Elizabeth Warren. This illustrates the challenge Sanders faces in consolidating and expanding his 2016 coalition.
  • When asked how they would vote in a Trump-Biden matchup, only 8 percent of Sanders voters were unsure and 6 percent said Trump. This was similar to the levels of support among Biden supporters who were asked about a Trump-Sanders matchup. If these numbers hold true in November 2020, there will actually be a remarkably low level of Democratic defection compared to 2016 or 2008.


Views of President Trump Among All Americans, Obama-Trump Voters

  • Among all Americans, President Trump continues to be less popular than leading Democratic presidential candidates, although his disadvantage has narrowed in the past year.
  • Among Romney-Clinton voters, Biden (+29) has a higher net favorability than Warren (+20) or Sanders (+7).
  • Obama-Trump voters favor Trump much more strongly (+57) than any of the Democratic frontrunners.

“Some supporters of the leading Democratic candidates may not approve of rival candidates for the nomination, but they dislike President Trump even more,” Griffin said. “Our research indicates that Democratic disapproval of the president could help heal the rifts after the nomination is settled.”

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a research collaboration of leading analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum. The full report can be found on the Voter Study Group website, along with other research from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group.

About Democracy Fund Voter Study Group

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a research collaboration of more than two dozen analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum. Created in the wake of the 2016 election, the Voter Study Group’s goal is to better understand the American electorate. Research and analysis from Voter Study Group members can be found at and on Twitter @democracyfund.


Fraser MacPherson
(206) 770-7094


Fraser MacPherson
(206) 770-7094