LOS ANGELES, CA — Diversity is taking a back seat to the Democrats’ desire to dump Trump, according to a poll published Wednesday.
The 2020 presidential candidate field is well stocked with women, people of color and millennials, but a majority of voters who said they expected to cast ballots in a Democratic primary thought that candidates who were white, middle-aged and male would be the party’s best bet for defeating President Trump, the Los Angeles Times reported.
That finding from the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times national poll (a poll that proved more accurate than most in 2016) illustrates the hurdles that female, black and Latino presidential candidates still face despite Democrats’ celebration of diversity in their ranks. The poll also illustrates the wariness, bordering on pessimism, that many Democratic voters continue to show in the aftermath of Trump’s upset victory in 2016.
Asked to describe the ideal candidate to beat Trump, two-thirds of Democratic primary voters said a white candidate had the best chance of winning in 2020; 7 in 10 said a man would have the best shot; and about three-quarters said the strongest candidate against Trump would be age 41-65. A small majority favored a moderate over a more liberal or progressive candidate.
Combined, 56% said they thought their best bet would be a white male candidate, with just over one-third opting for a white male moderate.
Such calculations about electability have become a prominent and controversial part of the 2020 campaign. The belief on the part of many voters that a white male candidate has the best shot against Trump has buoyed the candidacy of Vice President Joe Biden, who has led in polls this spring. Other candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, have criticized the focus on who is most electable.
“I remember when people said Barack Obama couldn’t be elected,” Warren said at a recent MSNBC town hall. “I remember when people said Donald Trump couldn’t be elected. And here we are.”
Warren, like other candidates lagging behind Biden in polls, has been urging voters to focus on candidates’ leadership qualities and policies, rather than trying to gauge their electability because guessing who can win an election a year away is all but impossible.
Although voters preferred a middle-age nominee in the abstract, when they were asked about specific candidates, majorities chose the two oldest candidates — Biden, 76, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 77 — as the ones mostly likely to beat Trump. More than 8 in 10 said Biden would definitely (39%) or probably (47%) win in November; 60% said that about Sanders, although only 17% said they thought he would definitely win.
Democratic voters were less optimistic about six other candidates the survey asked about. A majority said Trump probably or definitely would beat Warren, Harris or Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Even as Warren has been gaining ground in recent polls, the USC poll found that 55% of Democratic primary voters said Trump would probably (42%) or definitely (13%) beat her. Harris and O’Rourke were given roughly the same odds. Booker, Buttigieg and Klobuchar were judged less likely to win.
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