Anton Aguila / Gavel Media

Early Polling of the College Democrats Reveals Variation From National Trends

In anticipation of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, the College Democrats of Boston College (CDBC) conducted a straw poll of their members to determine who would win the nomination among BC students.

The poll was distributed through the College Democrat listserv on Saturday, April 27 and was open until Tuesday, April 30. It received 83 responses in total, roughly double their pool of 30-40 active members.

Nominal frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders led the pack in a tie, with approximately 19% of the vote each. They were closely followed by Mayor Pete Buttigeig (17%), Sen. Kamala Harris (15%), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (13%). Trailing a  little further back was former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke who garnered 10% of the vote, and rounding out the bottom were Sen. Cory Booker (4%), entrepreneur Andrew Yang (2%), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (1%).

Number of votes cast per candidate in the straw poll, data courtesy of CDBC.

Although the CDBC straw poll mirrors most national figures showing Biden and Sanders in the lead, there were a few notable variations between the BC results and national polling data.

“The results of this poll are quite different from national polls,” explained Jacob Ricco, MCAS '21, current president of CDBC. “They’re similar in that Biden and Bernie are nearly tied for the number one spot, but there is a lot more parity in our poll.”

For reference, current national polls show Biden holding a commanding lead with numbers in the low to mid-thirties as Sanders fluctuates between the high teens and low twenties. Everyone else rests beneath ten percent.

This disparity is most likely due to the fact that the students of Boston College do not form the most... representative sample of the modern Democratic party.

“The sample was limited to the College Democrats listserv, which has almost 900 subscribers. Assuming our listserv is representative of the Boston College student body, the sample overrepresents white and wealthy people relative to the Democratic Party,” said Kathryn Berman, MCAS '21, the vice president of the BC College Democrats.

This seems accurate, as the results of the CDBC straw poll look slightly more similar to the polling averages from the early primary state of New Hampshire—a New England state that also tends to be whiter, wealthier, and more educated—than the national average.

Polling data taken from CDBC and RCP, New Hampshire and national, averages 5/5/2019.

Even then, Boston College respondents seem to be more equally split between the rest of the Democratic contenders than both New Hampshire and the nation at large.

“Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and Beto all have a lot more support with BC Dems then the American population. In national polls, Bernie and Biden are running away with it, but the BC Dems appear to be still more open-minded and a bit more inclined towards someone new, young, and exciting,” said Ricco.

The poll also featured a few more unexpected results. Among them was the largely unanticipated showing from independent businessman, Andrew Yang.

“I was honestly surprised to see Andrew Yang receiving votes in the poll, while some of the more ‘establishment’ candidates like Gillibrand didn’t get any,” said Sophie Carter, MCAS '22, the political director of the College Democrats. “It’s going to be interesting to see if he continues to get more support after the debates.”

Going forward, representatives from the College Democrats agreed that, between the debates and overall campaign fatigue, the field will gradually come down to two or three candidates. And yet, it seems like the two current favorites to win the nomination will be in the race for quite a while.

“I would predict that Senator Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden will be among them or among the last to drop out,” said Berman.

Most BC Dems are reportedly open to considering multiple candidates, with members more confidently outlining individuals they would rather not see win the nomination as opposed to their favorite thus far. This means that even if their ideal candidate does not clinch the nomination outright, many would have a preferred alternative in mind.

“I would also venture to say that there are certainly favorite second choices. We have a lot of members who like Warren and Harris as second choices,” suggested Ricco. “However, if it came down to Bernie and Biden, I think Biden gets most of the stragglers, with some more excited about it and others… not so much.”

Nevertheless, with nearly ten months until the Iowa caucuses, there is still plenty of time for the standings to change.

“I think we will probably see the field start to narrow or bottleneck a little bit the closer we get to the end of the primary season,” remarked Carter. “I’m also not ruling out, and kind of hope to see, a shift in who the conventionally accepted ‘frontrunners’ are once voting actually starts.”