Democratic primary voters. What do they want?
In March, majorities of Democratic voters told Morning Consult that what they wanted out of a presidential candidate was someone who had decades of political experience but was under the age of 70. A majority said they wanted a “liberal” candidate, but a majority also said they wanted a “moderate” candidate. Taken together, this poll would suggest a preference for someone who is liberal, but not, like, crazily so, and experienced, but not too experienced. A similar NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Democratic voters said they would be particularly enthused to support a female candidate and/or a black candidate and particularly unenthused about voting for someone over the age of 75 or a socialist.
There’s also a lot of data about which policies Democrats support. A majority of Democratic voters told the New York Times and SurveyMonkey in February that they would like to see higher taxes on top earners, with 75 percent supporting one particular proposal to levy a 2 percent annual wealth tax on fortunes greater than $50 million. In a November 2018 Gallup poll, the issues most often identified by Democrats as important to them were health care, gender equality, and wealth inequality. Around the same, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey more narrowly focused on issues that had been in the headlines found that health care and “corruption” were the most important issues to Democrats. The same poll found that within the subject of health care, the issue that mattered most to Democratic voters was cost. When Kaiser asked about what kinds of costs were most concerning, the issue of “unexpected medical bills” came out on top. (For what it’s worth, Kaiser didn’t break responses to the cost question down by party. A January 2019 poll commissioned by the advocacy group Protect Our Care, though, found that 84 percent of all voters would support a policy that would cut down on unexpected bills, so it stands to reason that such a crackdown would also have traction in the Democratic primary electorate specifically.)
When it comes to how political campaigns are conducted, sizable majorities of Democratic voters say that corporations and other large donors have too much influence. In May 2018, for example, 77 percent of Democrats surveyed told Pew that they favored the enactment of laws that would further restrict the influence of such donors on the electoral process.
Now consider some known facts about Elizabeth Warren, presidential candidate. She’s been working in politics since 1995, but she’s only 69. She has a record of liberal policy accomplishments but explicitly defines herself as being more moderate in her economic philosophy than ascendant “Democratic socialists” like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She launched her 2020 campaign by promoting a comprehensive anti-corruption plan and has instituted groundbreaking rules to prevent large donors from influencing her. One of the things she’s most well-known for is cracking down on fine-print consumer abuses like surprise medical bills; she actually came to prominence in part for her work on the subject of medical bankruptcies. The 2 percent wealth tax thing was her idea. She is, additionally, a woman.
Despite all this, Warren has been able to raise so little money for her campaign that the New York Times wrote a big story about it, and she’s stuck in fifth place in the polls, well behind two frontrunners who are well past age 75 and male. One of those frontrunners is the most donor-friendly Democratic candidate in the race and the other is a self-declared socialist.
Voters: You can’t trust them!