SAIS election poll: Democratic primaries

By Gerhard Ottehenning

February 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a long winnowing phase, the Democratic primaries are finally underway. SAIS Virginia residents will get the chance to vote on March 3 (“Super Tuesday”), followed by Maryland residents on April 28 and D.C. on June 2. A recent poll administered by the SAIS Observer provides a snapshot of SAIS students’ voting preferences and how they differ by concentration. 

Like many of their Democratic counterparts across the nation, SAIS students have yet to coalesce around a single candidate. With over 31% of the vote, Bernie Sanders holds the plurality among likely SAIS Democratic voters, followed closely by Elizabeth Warren with 29%. Pete Buttigieg attracted 12% of the SAIS vote followed closely by Michael Bloomberg at 10%. In the rearguard, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar garnered 7 and 5% respectively. When asked who they thought had the best chance of clenching the nomination, 75% of SAIS students told the Observer that they believe Bernie Sanders will be the next Democratic nominee. 

In a majority of concentrations, Bernie Sanders emerges as the clear favorite with the notable exceptions being Strategic Studies and European and Eurasian studies. Only 6% of students in the former and 18% in the latter listed Sanders as their preferred candidate. In both concentrations Warren emerged as the favorite.

Despite attending a foreign policy-focused program, four in five SAISers cited domestic concerns as their primary reasons for supporting a candidate. “Restructuring the economic system and regulating Wall Street are high up on my list of priorities,” said one Warren supporter. A Sanders backer mentioned that he is the “only candidate that is focused on talking about issues such as inequality and universal access to healthcare.” Other students expressed concern over electability: “My main interest is for Trump to not get re-elected. Klobuchar will implement needed policy changes without going so far left that she isolates moderates.” A Biden supporter said that he is “the most experienced candidate, and his senior staff…have far more Executive Branch experience than the other candidates.” 

Regardless of who wins the nomination, 92% of SAISers said they would back the eventual nominee though they are not optimistic that any Democrat will be able to beat Trump; Of those polled, 55% said Trump will definitely or probably get reelected. Only one student believes that the Democrats are poised for an easy win. 

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