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Poll: Women voters could give women candidates a boost in the Democratic primary

Women helped back women candidates during the midterms. Data suggests that could happen again.

Presidential Candidates And Politicians Attend National Action Network Annual Convention
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at the National Action Network’s annual convention on April 5, 2019, in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

There’s a historic number of women running for the Democratic presidential ticket this cycle, and while several are considered top-tier candidates, they still aren’t leading the polls just yet. One key group that could give them a boost: women voters.

According to April polling conducted by Morning Consult, women voters could be slightly more likely than men to pick a woman candidate as their first choice in the Democratic primary.

In the latest weekly survey from the firm, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were the top candidates across Democratic voters overall, but when the data was broken out across gender, women voters backed several of the top women candidates at higher rates than male voters. While this trend is one that’s been consistent in at least three weeks of the firm’s weekly polling, a spokesperson for Morning Consult cautioned that it’s not statistically significant given the survey’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 1 percentage point.

The dynamic, in the latest poll, is observed across a number of prominent contenders.

8.5 percent of women voters ranked Kamala Harris as their top choice, for example, compared to 7.7 percent of men. 7.8 percent of women voters ranked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as their top choice, compared to 5.7 percent of men. And 2.4 percent of women voters ranked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as their top choice, compared to 2.3 percent of men.

Overall, 20.5 percent of women voters selected a woman as their top choice, versus 17.8 percent of men. While the head-to-head numbers are quite close, the slight differences between women and men voters actually affected where different candidates rank between the two groups.

Among women, Harris placed third, while among men, she placed fourth after former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Similarly, women voters ranked Warren ahead of O’Rourke.

The weekly Morning Consult survey was conducted with a sample of roughly 13,600 registered voters expected to participate in a Democratic primary or caucus.

Of the top 10 candidates, a higher proportion of men backed each male candidate, except Biden, who has consistently seen strong support from women. The poll was conducted from April 1-7, just as allegations about the former vice president inappropriately touching women began to surface. These accusations, however, may not ultimately change his support very much at all, though the survey suggests that his favorability has, in fact, declined.

The broader trend highlighted by the Morning Consult data, while not statistically significant, reflects a breakdown that’s been seen before. According to a Washington Post analysis, women voters were more likely than men to back Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary. As that analysis found, white men were among the groups that disproportionately voted in favor of Sanders.

Women have also backed women candidates in congressional races

Women voters have also played a crucial role in backing women candidates at the congressional level.

As a Pew Research study found, women — at a higher rate than men — welcome more women candidates running for Congress. And according to a CBS News survey, women in battleground districts were five times more likely than men to pick a woman candidate over a man during last fall’s midterm elections, if the two candidates broadly shared the same policy positions.

Women voters have long been seen as a coveted bloc that can bolster support of both Democratic and Republican candidates. In 2018, they were integral to ushering in a record-breaking number of women into Congress. In 2020, they could help nominate the second woman ever to be a major party presidential nominee.