Lots of buzz about Joe Biden’s poll numbers — particularly the results of the Suffolk University poll here in New Hampshire-– but as every pollster will tell you, a poll is just a snapshot of a moment in time. It’s not a projection into the future.
Which is why some of the press coverage of the poll results has been a bit overblown. Yes, as the headlines report, Joe Biden is leading in New Hampshire, but look at the numbers for yourself:
Technically “Undecided” is the 2020 frontrunner. And 20 percent support for a guy with 100 percent name ID and who was his party’s vice president for eight years isn’t exactly overperforming. Seeing Sen. Sanders, who dominated New Hampshire in 2016, down at 12 percent is probably more significant.
But if the purpose of a poll to project Biden’s likelihood of success or failure, these numbers might be of more interest:
Suffolk asked, “Thinking about the 2020 election, would you be satisfied with a presidential candidate who thinks the United States should be more socialist.” Only 30 percent of New Hampshire respondents said “yes,” while 61 percent said “no.” But among Democrats, “more socialism” won by a 30-point margin, 57-27 percent.
Suffolk then asked, “Do you consider yourself more of a socialist or capitalist?” Again, New Hampshire voters as a whole rejected socialism (21 percent socialists, 59 percent capitalists), while a plurality of Granite State Democrats (44 percent) call themselves socialists. By comparison, just 20 percent of unaffiliated voters–and a minuscule four percent of Republicans–felt the same.
These numbers echo results from the NHJournal poll in early April that found 63 percent of New Hampshire Democrats supported America becoming a more socialist country, while fewer than 20 percent of their fellow Granite Staters agreed.
Suffolk University also found that New Hampshire Democrats overwhelmingly support progressive, perhaps even socialist, policy positions like the Green New Deal, free college tuition and Medicare For All. All issues that Joe Biden has indicated he is unlikely to champion.
Which raises the question: Are the same Democrats who consider themselves socialist, support America embracing socialism and support progressive/socialist public policy really going to make a union-hall, old-school, Rust-Belt moderate their nominee?
Some analysts say “yes,” and they point to polling data showing that the Democrats’ top priority is beating President Trump and, for the moment, Democrats believe Joe Biden is the best candidate for that job. But polls also show Democrats believe that just about anybody would beat Trump. (Except maybe Elizabeth Warren.)
Will progressive Democrats really find the discipline to pass over a field of exciting, left-leaning candidates who embrace their principles and instead back Joe Biden? If they do, it will be a testament to their loathing of Donald Trump rather than their love for Joe Biden.