New Poll Shows Trump Beating Sanders, Tied With Warren But Trailing Biden in Key 2020 State

A survey of Virginia voters conducted by a university in the commonwealth's capital found that if the 2020 presidential election were held now, more residents would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. With the other two leading Democratic candidates, the poll shows the president beating Senator Bernie Sanders and in a tie with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond conducted the poll by phone among 818 state voters between December 2 and 13. Approximately half of those surveyed responded on cellphones, the other half on landline phones. The Wilder school said the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Among other questions, pollsters asked voters whom they would vote for if the presidential election were held that day. In separate questions, they asked respondents to choose between Trump and Biden, Trump and Sanders and Trump and Warren. According to a December 20 analysis of the Democratic race in The New York Times, those three Democrats are the front-runners in terms of national polling averages.

Of those three, only Biden came out ahead of Trump. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would vote for Biden if the election were held now, while 46 percent said they would cast their vote for Trump. An additional 6 percent said they were not sure which candidate they would support or refused to answer the question.

Warren, on the other hand, performed just as well in the poll as the president. Forty-seven percent of voters said they would vote for the Massachusetts senator if the election were held that day—and another 47 percent said they would choose Trump over Warren. The remaining 6 percent were undecided or refused to answer.

Lastly, 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Sanders instead of Trump, while 48 percent said they would choose the president. Six percent were undecided or refused to answer.

The poll did not ask voters to choose between Trump and other Democratic candidates, such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang or Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

Demographic breakdowns of the poll's respondents indicated there were several factors that indicated a person's likelihood of choosing Trump over a Democrat. Men were significantly more likely than women to pick Trump, as were white people compared with minorities. A plurality of respondents who had graduated from college said they would support any of the Democratic candidates over Trump.

It is also worth noting that the largest age demographic in the poll consisted of voters 65 and older. Of the 818 people surveyed, 334 (41 percent) were in that age bracket, while another 269 (33 percent) were between 45 and 64. The age groups of 18 to 34 and 35 to 44 made up a combined 22 percent of the polling group, with an equal number of participants from both groups.

Many political commentators consider Virginia an important indicator of the entire nation's political leanings—especially since it is one of the states to hold elections every year. It was the only former Confederate state to give its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and each year its elections are seen as a "litmus test" to determine how satisfied Americans are with Trump's leadership.

In November 2019, Virginians voted overwhelmingly to give the Democrats majority control of their legislature. This, along with the state's Democratic governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general (all of whom have survived scandals), has led some commentators to refer to Virginia as a "blue state."

In an article that month in The Atlantic, which referred to Virginia as a "bellwether" for national politics, staff writer Russell Berman wrote that the 2019 election showed that "the electoral fire on the left sparked by Donald Trump's stunning victory in 2016 is still burning hot three years later."

Virginia and US Flags
The Virginia state flag and the national flag at the state Capitol. Drew Angerer/Getty