The only serious events to cause any changes in polling support so far have been the Democratic presidential debates. Coming off the third debate, hosted by ABC News last week, we now have some of the first polling data out to examine from Morning Consult. The result shows little movement in the race, with most candidates staying the same or dropping a point, with two exceptions.

First, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the only candidate to see any measurable improvement, moving up two points since the last Morning Consult poll back on Sept. 8. The only other major candidate to see a slight (emphasis on slight) uptick is former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who moved the needle by one point.

The take from Morning Consult is that the night benefitted Warren above any other candidate with Biden and Sanders simply holding steady:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren continued her steady rise in the Democratic primary following the third round of presidential debates, getting as close as she’s come to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the second-place slot behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to the latest Morning Consult poll of 7,487 Democratic primary voters conducted Sept. 13-15, 18 percent of respondents said the Massachusetts Democrat is their top choice to take on President Donald Trump next fall, up 2 percentage points from a Sept. 2-8 survey.

Here’s the breakdown of the numbers for the top ten:

Morning Consult Post-Third Debate

Source: Morning Consult poll of 7,487 Democratic primary voters conducted Sept. 13-15, 18. MoE 1%

There is nothing to write home about for Beto, but maybe – just maybe – he’s found a way to latch onto the gun control issue and become the passionate candidate willing to drop an f-bomb on TV to get everyone’s attention. He kept his profanity “holstered” for the debate last week, on the advisement of ABC, but he managed to get his t-shirt slogan of “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” on the record. It will take more than one poll to corroborate whether Beto is on the verge of a slight bounce, or whether his passionate pleas are falling on deaf ears of Democratic primary voters who already wrote him off months ago.

As for Warren, she tangled it up with Biden during the debate, but stuck to policy disagreements and did nothing to insult his candidacy or question his ability to remember what he said 2 minutes ago. Two percentage points in a poll with a one percentage point margin of error may not mean too much, but she’s the only candidate with the highest measurable change in support from prior polls.

Where is the new support coming from? According to the same polling data, Warren is picking up backers from a range of Democratic primary voter demographics:

That steady growth has been largely driven by four groups: the most engaged primary voters, those over the age of 65, white liberals and college-educated whites.

Since that April poll, she has picked up 17 points among voters who say they are extremely interested in politics and public affairs, 16 points among white liberals and voters ages 65 or older and 15 points among college-educated whites.

Having an increase in support from “engaged primary voters” is probably not a bad thing to have. After all, Biden has support from a lot of “passive” voters, perhaps based on name recognition alone. Warren is building a base of support from voters who are tending to pay more attention to the process right now. Engaged voters, and voters over 65, also likely have some of the highest turnout numbers on primary or caucus day.

We’ll wait for some more numbers this week to see where the dust settles from the third Democratic debate. Maybe Andrew Yang’s thousand-dollar giveaway will give him a boost next week?


  1. Since Warren is the only one who has had steady improvement, AND since she is gaining those points from people who are paying the most attention to the race, it bodes well for her.

    Biden continues to lead, but still with a minority number. The people who like him are the same type of people who thought Dems should pick loser Hubert Humphrey in 1968–since Eugene McCarthy was seen as “too extreme”–and who picked loser Hillary in 2016–since Bernie Sanders was seen as “too extreme.” History may not repeat, but it often mimics.

    On the Republican side, they picked loser Gerald Ford because Reagan seemed too extreme, and loser GHW Bush, since Pat Buchanan was seen as too extreme. Again, in 1996, they picked loser Bob Dole–because they felt he had “paid his dues” and was a centrist.

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