Poll: Biden and Warren on the rise, while Harris plummets among 2020 field

By Caitlin Oprysko

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren made steady climbs after last week’s Democratic presidential debate, while Sen. Kamala Harris has plummeted since her breakout performance in the first debate this summer, according to a poll out Tuesday.

The national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of Democratic primary voters found that while Biden maintains a lead, climbing 5 percentage points in the past two months, Warren has also been on the rise, posting a 6-point gain since July. But Biden (31 percent) still has a 6-point lead on Warren (25 percent), with Sen. Bernie Sanders rising 1 point to 14 percent in the poll.

Harris, meanwhile, has dropped 8 points to fifth place in the field, falling behind Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., whose support remained unchanged at 7 percent.

Only three other candidates garnered more than 1 percent in the poll, which doesn’t have any ramifications on the fourth Democratic primary debate next month: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang rose 2 points to 4 percent, while Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker each doubled their support to reach 2 percent.

The survey, which took place starting the day after last week’s debate in Houston, points to Warren’s solidifying place among the top three candidates in the field, as well as a hardening gap separating the top and midtier candidates in the race.

While the former vice president still leads his rivals in Tuesday’s survey, several data points underscored Warren’s recent surge to the top tier of White House hopefuls. The Massachusetts senator holds a 10-point lead among voters who said they were enthusiastic about their preferred candidate and is the only candidate in the top three for whom enthusiasm has grown since March.

The 35 percent of voters who said they were enthusiastic about Warren represent a 15-point gain since then, while Sanders, who comes in second in enthusiasm, has seen a drop of 3 points, to 25 percent. Enthusiasm for Biden has dropped by 10 points to 23 percent since March, which was before he announced his bid.

Warren also topped voters’ list of second choices for the Democratic nominee, garnering 21 percent support to Sanders’ 16 percent, Buttigieg’s 12 percent and Biden’s 11 percent.

Meanwhile, a majority of Democratic primary voters — 56 percent — said they preferred a candidate who proposed “larger scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change” on issues like climate change, health care and economic opportunity. That compares with 40 percent who said they favored a candidate proposing a more incremental approach.

Still, nearly 8 in 10 voters said they were satisfied that former President Barack Obama did as much as possible during his presidency to address issues facing the country, a boon for Biden’s strategy of tying himself to the accomplishments of his former boss despite criticism from some of his rivals.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted Sept. 13-16 among 506 Democratic primary voters, including more than half who were reached by cellphone. The survey has a margin error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.