Suburban voters — who may be the deciding voices in the 2020 presidential elections — preferred the leading Democratic candidates by narrow margins over Republican President Donald Trump, according to the inaugural Kalikow School Poll at Hofstra University.
In hypothetical general election matchups, former Vice President Joe Biden had a 6.6-percentage point advantage over Trump in the suburbs, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had a 3-percentage point edge and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led by 0.4 percentage points, according to the poll released Thursday.
Among suburbanites, 52.7 percent disapproved of the job Trump is doing as president while 47.3 percent approved. Suburban women — a critical subset courted by both parties — disapproved of Trump’s job performance by a higher rate: about 56 percent.
“There is an opening for Democrats,” said Craig Burnett, a Hofstra University associate professor of political science and a designer of the poll. “It really just matters who the Democrats nominate and if they choose somebody who’s close to suburban voters on the issues.”
The first-ever Kalikow School Poll surveyed likely voters nationwide and is based on interviews with 1,608 panelists with YouGov, a firm specializing in online polling.
The poll recorded responses from Oct. 25 through Oct. 31 and oversampled suburban voters. It has an overall margin of error of 3 percent. The margins of error are 3.6 percent for suburbanites, 6.8 percent for urbanites and 8 percent for rural respondents. A second Kalikow School Poll is to be conducted in March 2020.
The moderate vote
Democratic gains in local and state elections earlier this month in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and elsewhere showed the blue wave that last year won Democrats control of the U.S. House had not yet subsided. And the bluing of the suburbs — particularly in battlegrounds such as the counties outside Philadelphia — is seen as a harbinger for 2020.
Political experts stress that suburban votes tend to be moderate ones.
“A lot of people hold policy positions that are closer to what Donald Trump is arguing than to certainly the more liberal candidates of the Democratic Party,” Burnett said.
The Kalikow School Poll took the pulse of voters nationally and found that support for the president among those living in the suburbs is generally higher than those in urban areas but lower than those in rural ones.
Overall, when it comes to how he is performing on the economy, Trump's approval rating was 55.8 percent while his disapproval rating was 44.2 percent. In the suburbs, 54.3 percent approved of his work on the economy while 45.7 disapproved.
Trump's lowest net approval rating of the poll came on health care. Overall, 55.2 percent of voters disapproved of the job he is doing on health care while 44.8 approved. In the suburbs, 57.1 percent disapproved while 42.9 approved.
Healthcare has been a divisive issue in the Democratic primary with Biden and other moderates supporting building on the Affordable Care Act, including with a public option, and Sanders, Warren and other progressives favoring a government-run Medicare For All plan.
The poll found that among suburbanites, only 36.2 percent of likely voters supported Medicare For All and only 44.1 percent supported a public option.
"On health care, a more centrist approach to policymaking may be beneficial for Democrats," said Meena Bose, executive dean of the Kalikow School’s Public Policy and Public Service Program.
The Democratic primary
In the contest for the Democratic nomination, Biden led among likely Democratic voters overall with 27.5 percent, Warren was next with 26.6 percent, Sanders had 12.3 percent and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had 8.1 percent. No other Democratic candidate scored above 5 percent.
Biden and Warren were tied among suburban Democrats at 27.5 percent each. Democrats in the suburbs backed Sanders by 13.3 percent and Buttigieg by 7.7 percent. No other Democratic candidate scored above 3 percent.
The poll was released as House Democrats began the public phase of their impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Overall, more than 80 percent of voters correctly identified that a whistleblower complaint was the impetus for the impeachment proceedings, 52.3 percent of voters support the impeachment proceedings while 47.8 percent oppose them, and 49.4 percent would support the House impeaching Trump while 43.6 percent would not.
"Just over 50 percent of all respondents — and of suburban voters — endorse the inquiry, though support for impeachment at this time is largely connected to party affiliation," Bose said. "Given ongoing attention to the issue, information from House public hearings likely will influence public opinion on how Congress should proceed."