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Satisfaction With 2020 Candidates Is Running High

Satisfaction With 2020 Candidates Is Running High

Story Highlights

  • Three in four Democrats pleased with Democratic presidential field
  • Nearly as many Republicans are content with their party's choices
  • Satisfaction with candidates higher than in most recent elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three-quarters of U.S. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they are generally pleased with the selection of candidates running for their party's 2020 presidential nomination. That is among the highest levels of satisfaction with candidates for the Democratic nomination Gallup has measured since it first asked the question in 1992, although it is similar to the readings Gallup found heading into the 2008 election.

Three in Four Democrats Satisfied With Candidates Running for 2020 Nomination
Are you generally pleased with the selection of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination, or do you wish someone else was running for president?
Generally pleased with the candidates Wish someone else was running Leading candidates at time of poll
% %
Years when Democrats challenged an incumbent Republican
2019 Sep 16-30 75 21 Biden/Warren/Sanders
2003 Oct 10-12 51 41 Clark/Dean/Lieberman
2002 Dec 16-17 48 39 Lieberman/Kerry/Gephardt
1992 Mar 11-12 42 54 B Clinton/Tsongas/Brown
1992 Feb 19-20 44 45 B Clinton/Tsongas
Other years
2016 May 13-15 58 39 H Clinton/Sanders
2016 Apr 15-17 55 42 H Clinton/Sanders
2007 Sep 7-8 73 23 H Clinton/Obama/Edwards
2007 Apr 13-15 80 18 H Clinton/Obama/Edwards
No opinion not shown

Not only is Democratic satisfaction high overall, but it is high among the two largest ideological blocs within the party. Still, satisfaction is greater on the ideological left, with 85% of self-described liberals saying they are pleased with the selection of Democratic candidates vs. 71% of self-described moderates. Conservative Democrats are even less likely to be content (54% "generally pleased"), but they are also a much smaller faction of the party than the two other groups.

Current Democratic Satisfaction Rivaled Only by Reaction to 2008 Choices

The 75% of Democrats satisfied with today's Democratic candidates is higher than Gallup has seen in two prior election years when Democrats were seeking to replace an incumbent Republican president.

  • 51% were satisfied in October 2003, when Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman were at the top of the 2004 Democratic trial heat polls.
  • 44% were pleased in February 1992, after Bill Clinton had emerged as the front-runner, but Paul Tsongas was still a close second, in that year's Democratic race.

Gallup also polled Democrats on their satisfaction with their candidates in two open presidential elections, when no incumbent from either party was running.

  • Just over half of Democrats were satisfied in April and May 2016, as Hillary Clinton was eclipsing Bernie Sanders in the delegate count during that year's primaries.
  • Late in 2007, when Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards were vying for the 2008 nomination, 73% of Democrats were satisfied with the field -- similar to today's level. Earlier that year, satisfaction was even higher at 80%.

Gallup did not ask this question in connection with the 2000 nomination, when Vice President Al Gore and Bill Bradley were the leading contenders. However, given Gore's broad popularity in the party at the time, it's conceivable that 2000 was another election year when most Democrats were satisfied with their choice of candidates.

The latest results are from a Sept. 16-30 Gallup poll of over 2,400 national adults, including roughly 1,100 Democrats and Democratic leaners and over 1,000 Republicans and Republican leaners.

Most Republicans Satisfied With Their Party's Field Also

Even as President Donald Trump is seeking reelection in 2020 with an 89% approval rating among Republicans nationwide, three announced GOP challengers have emerged -- two running to his right on fiscal or foreign policy issues, and the third running somewhat to his left. Overall, 72% of Republicans say they are pleased with their choice of candidates for the 2020 Republican nomination, similar to Democrats' satisfaction.

As with Democrats, different ideological factions of Republicans are largely pleased with this year's field, but the percentage pleased is higher among conservative Republicans (74%) than moderate Republicans (64%). There are too few liberal Republicans in the poll to evaluate that group's views.

Given that most Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, most of those who approve (79%) also say they are pleased with the selection of candidates running for the Republican nomination. However, among the much smaller group of Republicans who disapprove of Trump's job performance, just 38% are satisfied with the field, while 59% wish someone else was running -- likely reflecting doubts that any of Trump's current GOP rivals is likely to succeed.

Republican Satisfaction the Highest Since 2007

Gallup has asked the same question of Republicans with reference to various nomination battles since 1992; however, the most relevant to 2019 are years when a Republican president was running for reelection. These include 1992, leading up to George H.W. Bush's reelection defeat, and 2003, as George W. Bush was seeking a second term.

Republicans are more likely to be satisfied with the candidates today than in either of those years. They are also more satisfied than Gallup measured in non-incumbent years, with one exception -- September 2007, when 70% of Republicans were satisfied with the field, led at that early point in the campaign by Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain.

Most Republicans Satisfied With GOP Candidates as Trump Seeks Reelection
Are you generally pleased with the selection of the candidates running for the Republican nomination, or do you wish someone else was running for president?
Generally pleased with the candidates Wish someone else was running Leading candidates at time of poll
% %
Republican incumbent years
2019 Sep 16-30 72 24 Trump (incumbent)
2003 Oct 10-12 56 35 GW Bush (incumbent)
1992 Feb 19-20 62 32 GHW Bush (incumbent)
Other years
2016 Apr 15-17 44 55 Trump/Cruz/Kasich
2012 Feb 16-19 44 55 Santorum/Romney/Gingrich
2007 Sep 7-8 70 26 Giuliani/Thompson/McCain
1996 Feb 23-25 46 49 Dole/Buchanan/Alexander
No opinion not shown

Bottom Line

Democrats and Republicans are expressing near-record-high satisfaction with the candidates their respective parties are offering for the 2020 presidential nomination. That may be a function of the particular candidates running, but also the number. With 19 announced candidates still in the race for the Democratic nomination, there is bound to be someone whom most Democrats can feel excited about.

Meanwhile, the large majority of Republicans have a positive view of the job Trump is doing as president, and therefore are content to see him be the party's standard-bearer a second time.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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