NBC/WSJ poll: Biden leads Dem 2020 field, Warren's support grows

Ideology, race define Democratic horserace

Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) interact on stage during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continue to top the Democratic 2020 presidential field after last week's debate – in a race for the nomination that breaks along ideological and racial lines, according to a brand-new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey also shows that Warren has the advantage in enthusiasm, and that she gets the most second-choice support.

Biden leads the overall horserace with backing from 31 percent of Democratic primary voters (up 5 points since July), while Warren gets 25 percent (up 6 points).

They're followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 14 percent (up 1 point), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 7 percent (unchanged) and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at 5 percent (down 8 points).

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang gets support from 4 percent of Democratic primary voters, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., both get 2 percent.

No other Democratic presidential candidate gets more than 1 percent support in the poll, which was conducted Sept. 13-16 – immediately after Thursday's debate in Houston.

Importantly, only 9 percent of all Democratic respondents say their minds are definitely made up.

Ideology, race define Democratic race

Ideology, race and age still define the Democratic horserace, with Biden leading among moderates, African Americans and older Democratic primary voters, while Warren overperforms with liberal and white Democrats.

Fifty-six percent of Democratic primary voters in the NBC/WSJ poll prefer a nominee who proposes larger-scale policies on health care, climate change and the economy that cost more and might be harder to pass – but still could bring greater change.

Warren gets support from 32 percent of these Democrats, Biden gets 21 percent and Sanders 19 percent.

By contrast, 40 percent of Democratic primary voters want a nominee who proposes smaller-scale policies that would cost less and might be easier to pass.

Biden dominates these voters, getting 43 percent to Warren's 17 percent, with Harris at 9 percent and Buttigieg at 8 percent.

In a separate question, 78 percent of Democratic primary voters say they're satisfied that Barack Obama's presidency did as much as possible at the time in addressing the issues facing the country.

Biden leads Warren among these voters, 33 percent to 25 percent, with Sanders getting 13 percent.

But 20 percent of Dem voters say they weren't satisfied with Obama's presidency, and Warren leads Biden here, 27 percent to 19 percent, with Sanders at 18 percent.

Ninety-percent of Democratic primary voters in the poll hold a favorable view of Obama, versus just 4 percent who view him negatively.

Warren has edge in enthusiasm

While Warren narrowly trails Biden in the Democratic horserace, she holds the advantage in enthusiasm.

Thirty-five percent of Democratic primary voters say they're "enthusiastic" about Warren (which is up 9 points since June), another 35 percent are "comfortable" with her and just 6 percent are "very uncomfortable."

That's compared with 23 percent who are enthusiastic about Biden, another 41 percent who are comfortable and 13 percent who are very uncomfortable – essentially unchanged since June.

Bernie Sanders' numbers are 25 percent enthusiastic, 37 percent comfortable and 12 percent very uncomfortable.

Warren also gets the most second-choice support in the horserace, with 21 percent of Democratic primary voters picking her as their second choice – followed by Sanders at 16 percent, Buttigieg at 12 percent and Biden at 11 percent.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 13-16 of 506 Democratic primary voters – including more than half who were reached by cell phone – and it has a margin of error here of plus-minus 4.4 percentage points.

The remainder of the poll will be released at a later date.

Among liberal Dem primary voters (50% of all Dem primary voters)

  • Warren 36%
  • Biden 19%
  • Sanders 19%
  • Harris 7%
  • Buttigieg 6%

Moderates/conservatives (44% of all Dem primary voters)

  • Biden 42%
  • Warren 15%
  • Sanders 7%
  • Buttigieg 7%

Whites (65%)

  • Warren 28%
  • Biden 27%
  • Sanders 14%
  • Buttigieg 8%
  • Harris 5%

African Americans (20%)

  • Biden 49%
  • Warren 13%
  • Harris 10%
  • Sanders 5%
  • Yang 5%
  • Buttigieg 3%

18-34 (27%)

  • Sanders 33%
  • Warren 25%
  • Yang 11%
  • Biden 10%
  • Harris 7%
  • Buttigieg 5%

65+ (22%)

  • Biden 46%
  • Warren 25%
  • Buttigieg 7%

Large-scale change (56%)

  • Warren 32%
  • Biden 21%
  • Sanders 19%
  • Yang 7%

Small change (40%)

  • Biden 43%
  • Warren 17%
  • Harris 9%
  • Buttigieg 8%

Satisfied with Obama (78%)

  • Biden 33%
  • Warren 25%
  • Sanders 13%

Unsatisfied with Obama (20%)

  • Warren 27%
  • Biden 19%
  • Sanders 18%

You can view the full poll below.