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Poll: Elizabeth Warren’s handling of her DNA results hurts her favorability — but not her electoral chances

About one-fifth of Democratic voters say they view her less favorably after she released the results.

Elizabeth Warren Brings Her Presidential Campaign Back To Iowa
Democratic presidential candiate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to a crowd during a campaign stop at Fat Hill Brewing on May 4, 2019 in Mason City, Iowa. 
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Even as her 2020 candidacy gains momentum, Elizabeth Warren’s use of a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry still gives a segment of Democrats some pause. According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, Warren’s handling of this issue has negatively affected how a fraction of voters view her, though it doesn’t appear poised to hurt her electoral chances.

As the May poll finds, roughly one-fifth of Democrat voters view Warren less favorably because of how she handled the DNA results, but most said it wouldn’t affect whether they supported her. Although 19 percent of Democrats said her decision negatively changed how they perceive her, just 12 percent say they are less likely to back her in the primary as a result.

Independent voters reacted slightly more strongly. Thirty-four percent of independents said it made them see her less favorably, and 20 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for her in the primary.

These results are in line with those from a Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire voters, which found that less than five percent of voters saw the scrutiny of Warren’s Native American heritage as making her too “vulnerable” to choose as their top Democrat candidate.

Warren first disclosed her DNA results in October 2018, in response to taunts from President Donald Trump who had nicknamed her “Pocahontas” for her previous claims of Native American ancestry. Trump pressed Warren to take the DNA test last summer, the results of which she announced in the fall to immense political backlash.

While Warren sought to address the recurring Trump slurs by releasing these test results — which provided “strong evidence” that one of her ancestors from six to ten generations back was Native American — her decision to do was ultimately seen as playing into the president’s mockery and validating the use of DNA tests to demonstrate Native American identity.

Her efforts were met with outcry by Native American leaders and many members of the Democratic party. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr., said in a statement at the time.

Warren ultimately offered a private apology to the Cherokee Nation this past February, after noting that her “decision was to put it all out there,” while directly addressing the controversy during a campaign event in January.

As the Morning Consult poll indicates, this blowback may have affected Warren’s favorability slightly, but most Democrats don’t see it changing whether they would consider her as the nominee.