It’s increasingly more important to Democratic primary voters to beat President Donald Trump than support their favorite candidate -- and former Vice President Joe Biden is widely considered the candidate most likely to give them the White House.
That’s a major source of strength for Biden, who continues to lead the Democratic field, albeit at a new low.
Biden captures the support of 29 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to a new Fox News Poll. That’s down 2 points since last month and down 6 points since May, when he was at a high of 35 percent support. His current 11-point lead is down from a high of 19 points in June.
Sanders climbs back into second with 18 percent (up 8 points since August), followed by Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent (down 4), forming the clearest top three candidate tier seen in this race to date.
The next tier includes Kamala Harris at 7 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 5 percent, Beto O’Rourke at 4 percent, Cory Booker at 3 percent, and both Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar at 2 percent.
Michael Bennet, John Delaney, and Tom Steyer each receive 1 percent.
The top picks among self-described moderates and conservatives voting in the Democratic primary are Biden (34 percent), Sanders (14 percent), and Warren (9 percent). “Very” liberals go for Sanders (31 percent), Biden (22 percent), and Warren (20 percent).
Primary voters under age 35 prefer Sanders (35 percent) over Biden (17 percent) and Warren (14 percent). Those ages 45 and over go even more heavily for Biden (38 percent) over Warren (17 percent) and Sanders (8 percent).
Biden is ahead among whites by 7 points (Biden 26, Warren 19, Sanders 16) and non-whites by 13 points (Biden 34, Sanders 21, Warren 11, Harris 9).
By a 25-point margin, Democratic primary voters prioritize supporting the candidate who has the best shot at beating Trump over the candidate they like the most (56-31 percent). That’s up from 15 points in March (51-36 percent).
And 42 percent say Biden has the best chance of winning. That’s more than double the 17 percent who say Sanders and more than three times the 12 percent who say Warren.
And yet, primary voters also prefer a candidate who will take a new approach (49 percent) over one who will build on Obama’s legacy (43 percent), and say backing a candidate who will fundamentally change how the political system works (50 percent) is more important than supporting one who will restore the system to how it was before the Trump administration (46 percent).
Biden is preferred by a 19-point margin among those who want to restore Washington to pre-Trump, and tops Sanders by a narrow 4 points among those wanting to fundamentally change the political system in Washington.
In addition, those wanting to build on former President Obama’s legacy go for Biden by 19 points, and he holds his own among those wanting to take a new approach: Biden (23 percent), Warren (22 percent), and Sanders (20 percent).
Democrats are pretty pleased with their slate of candidates. Most would be very or somewhat satisfied with Biden (76 percent), Warren (76 percent), or Sanders (70 percent) being the party’s nominee, and about 6 in 10 feel that way about Harris (62 percent), Booker (57 percent), and Buttigieg (57 percent).
The number who would be satisfied with Warren is up 15 points since April. And while overall satisfaction with Biden is down a touch (-2 points), he captures the largest portion saying they would be very satisfied if he is the nominee (47 percent vs. 40 percent for Warren and 37 percent for Sanders).
Still, nearly 4 in 10 Democratic primary voters (38 percent) are hoping someone new will enter the 2020 race, including 36 percent of those backing Biden. That’s about how Democrats felt during the 2008 primaries, when 36 percent wanted to see a new face jump in (September 2007).
Health care is the number one “deal-breaker” issue for Democrats, as 13 percent say (without the aid of a list) they must agree with a candidate on it before they can vote for them. That matters, as some of the biggest policy differences between Democratic hopefuls are on health care.
Eighty-two percent of primary voters favor changing the health care system to allow every American to buy into Medicare, while 74 percent support largely leaving Obamacare in place (Biden’s position). Fewer, although still a 60 percent majority, favor getting rid of private health insurance and moving to a government-run system (Sanders and Warren).
Among all voters, majorities favor the public option (68 percent) and Obamacare (57 percent), while views split on a government-run system (46 favor vs. 48 oppose).
When asked if it would be tougher to beat Trump if Democrats nominate a candidate with certain characteristics, primary voters say the biggest liabilities would be nominating someone who is gay (50 percent), someone who has strongly liberal positions (50 percent), or a woman (49 percent). Fewer see nominating a person of color (39 percent) or a white man over age 70 (33 percent) as disadvantages.
Conducted September 15-17, 2019 under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,008 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide who spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters and 4.5 points for Democratic primary voters (480).