Of all the candidates remaining on the crowded 2020 Democratic primary ticket, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are the two candidates least likely to be seen as unsatisfactory to voters. According to Insider polling, only 14.6% of respondents say they are "not satisfied" with Warren as a candidate. That's bested only by Buttigieg, who's unsatisfied percentage is even lower at 13.9%.
If their recent clashes on the debate stage are any guidance, then it's clear Buttigieg and Warren differ on some key Democratic primary issues. Buried beneath their differences though, the two share a common similarity: neither of them really have many haters.
While Warren polls stronger than Buttigieg in overall support, the candidates have the two lowest percentages of people who say they are "not satisfied" with them of any other Democratic candidates. That's a significant difference from the rest of the primary field. The polling data, pulled from the recurring SurveyMonkey Audience national poll conducted by Insider (and available for download here), illustrates the percentage of people who say they are either "satisfied" or "unsatisfied" in the event each of the Democratic candidates became nominee.
Here's how each of the Democratic candidates fare, in terms of the percentage of people who know them that find them unsatisfisfactory as nominee. The top three candidates who lead the polls are in bold.
- Marianna Williamson —56% unsatisfied.
- Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney and Tom Steyer —35% unsatisfied.
- Tim Ryan — 32% unsatisfied.
- Joe Biden — 27% unsatisfied.
- Steve Bullock — 26% unsatisfied.
- Michael Bennet — 25% unsatisfied.
- Andrew Yang — 24% unsatisfied.
- Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke— 23% unsatisfied.
- Kamala Harris and Julian Castro— 22% unsatisfied.
- Bernie Sanders —21% unsatisfied.
- Cory Booker — 20% unsatisfied.
- Elizabeth Warren 15% unsatisfied.
- Pete Buttigieg — 14% unsatisfied.
Several times each month since last December, Insider asked over 1,100 respondents about the Democratic field, specifically, if they'd be satisfied or unsatisfied with known each of the known primary candidates as the nominee. More details on what we poll and what we ask can be found here.
Both Warren and Buttigieg have had great campaigns, but for different reasons
By many measures, Warren and Buttigieg have run some of the strongest campaigns in the race. Both candidates have benefitted from meteoric rises in popularity and they've managed to do it without creating too many enemies.
Warren entered the race in February, already a well-known name, but trailing behind Bernie Sanders and even more so behind Biden. In the eight months since, she's managed to all but close that gap, and by some measurements, has already taken on the front runner role.
Buttigieg's campaign, on the other hand, has accelerated just as rapidly, but his starting line was further back. When the 37-year-old Indiana mayor officially announced his campaign in April, few Americans had any idea who he was. Since then, he's carved out an identity among a crowded field of competitors and managed to poll around 7% according to an October Morning Consult poll. That might not seem high, but it's good enough for fourth place.
Buttigieg has more room to grow support than Warren
Buttigieg is, for now, a ways off from catching Warren, but a closer look at their respective percentage of people unsatisfied with him suggests Buttigieg may have an important advantage over the Massachusetts senator: Lots of people still don't know what to think about him.
When asked about Buttigieg, 37.4% of respondents hadn't made up their mind. That's 15% more than the percentage of respondents who hadn't made up their mind about Warren. Warren has a clear lead as of October 2019, but she has acquired that lead by firmly positioning herself as one of the most ideologically liberal candidates in the campaign.
Buttigieg, on the other hand, has been ideologically flexible. The mayor proved this point during the October debate when he aggressively probed Warren over her unwillingness to provide a straight answer on whether or not taxes would increase as a result of her medicare for all plans.
"Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything," the South Bend mayor said during the debate." Except this." During an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN following the debate, Buttigieg pressed the issue further.
"I think that if you are proud of your plan, and it's the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms," Buttigieg said. "I think it's puzzling when everyone knows the answer to that question of whether her plan or Sen. Sanders' plan will raise taxes is 'yes' why you wouldn't just say so and then explain why that's the better way forward."
Buttigieg's debate probe illustrates his willingness to push the policy initiatives of some of the most liberal candidates. Unlike other candidates that are either liked or hated, Buttigieg has an advantage in that he's viewed the least unsatisfactory but also comparatively unknown. In recent debates, Buttigieg has hinted that his campaign is less willing to support the most liberal Democratic policy positions but looks poised to be a viable alternative to the less liberal share of Biden supporters should his campaign continue to trend down.
In other words, Buttigieg could lure in Biden voters . If that happens, the balance of race could tip in his favor.