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Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both way more popular than Donald Trump

Biden, in particular, is popular with everyone.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden swears in Sen. Bernie Sanders at the US Senate in January 2013. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the best-known members of the Democratic Party’s very crowded 2020 primary field, and they are both more popular than Donald Trump, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll.

The two other moderately well-known Democrats — Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg — both fare less well with underwater favorable ratings. Everyone else, including Beto O’Rourke, Sherrod Brown, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand, is fairly obscure, with a majority of the public offering no opinion so far.

These early polling results are of limited ultimate relevance, especially with so many people in the field who simply aren’t well-known at this point. But the fact that Warren and Bloomberg are both unpopular while Biden and Sanders are both popular is a useful reminder that mass opinion does not feature an enormous amount of ideological consistency. Meanwhile, the field is likely to continue to be large because Trump’s approval numbers are frankly terrible — 40 percent favorable to 56 percent unfavorable — even though the economy has been performing well.

Basically, any ambitious politician is going to look at those numbers and think, “I can beat that guy.” And maybe they can!

Biden and Bernie are both popular

In contrast to Trump, Joe Biden’s numbers look fantastic with a 53/33 favorable/unfavorable split. Democrats love Biden, with 84 percent approving, and he’s above water with essentially all demographic subcategories:

  • African Americans love Biden, 73-12.
  • A lot of Latinos don’t know who he is, but those who do like him 46-18.
  • White people like Biden, too, by a 52-38 margin. Biden even does okay with white men (49-43) and white voters with no college degree (44-41).
  • Biden does best with voters under 35 (60-21) but also does pretty well with old people (54-33).

Bernie Sanders is distinctly less popular than Biden at 44-42 and, accordingly, is less uniformly popular across demographic groups.

  • African Americans (55-26) and Latinos (52-26) like Bernie, but he’s slightly underwater (43-45) with whites, faring especially poorly with white men (40-51) and working-class whites (38-44).
  • Young people really like Sanders (57-29), but old people do not (40-45).
  • Democrats like Sanders (74-13), but independents do not (39-43).

All things considered, these actual numbers cut against a lot of online narratives. Sanders is more popular with women than with men, and more popular with people of color than with whites — it’s the normal pattern of support for progressive politics in America and no sign of “Bernie Bros” running amok.

At the same time, contrary to some of the pro-Bernie versions of these narratives, there’s no particular sign that working-class whites are clamoring for democratic socialism. They’re simply more conservative than white college graduates, and consequently like Sanders less than the professional class does and less than they like Joe Biden.

Last but by no means least, the years-long twitter dual between Sanders’s insurgent army and the establishment is not in evidence in the polling. Both Bernie and Biden are extremely popular with self-identified Democrats, and the lesser-known contenders like O’Rourke, Harris, etc. are all extremely popular among those Democrats who have heard of them.

Trump, by contrast, is in really bad shape.

Donald Trump is unpopular

Trump’s numbers in this poll are so bad that his favorable rating is underwater with white voters, who dislike him by a 46-50 margin.

To get a flavor of how bad that is, no Democratic presidential candidate has ever won the white vote since 1964. White men do like Trump (53-45), as do whites with no college degree (56-42), but white women (41-55) and white college graduates (37-59) really do not. Young people (27-68) hate him; old people (41-56) don’t particularly like him either.

Presidents recover from bad mid-session approval ratings all the time (both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama had rough numbers at this point), but normally, that’s because an improvement in underlying economic conditions powers them to victory. Dislike of Trump seems much more specific to Trump rather than to the state of the economy, so it’s understandable that basically everyone in the universe is eager to run against him.