It’s perhaps no secret that the voters paying closest attention to the Democratic primary are those on the more liberal end of the ideological spectrum. But FiveThirtyEight.com quantified that engagement by looking back through the last five Quinnipiac polls and finding that, on average, 64% of Democratic voters who identify as “very liberal” were paying “a lot” of attention to the campaign. Meanwhile, 48% of those who self-identified as “somewhat liberal” and 47% of “moderate/conservative” Democrats said they were paying “a lot” of attention.
Over the summer, these super-engaged, highly liberal voters began to gravitate toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren over other Democrats, according to FiveThirtyEight. In June, Warren drew 29% of their support; by early August, following the second Democratic primary debate, Warren notched 40% support with this group. The more recent Q poll toward the end of August put Warren’s support among the unabashed liberals at 34%, compared to 22% for Sen. Bernie Sanders, 15% for Vice President Joe Biden, and 12% for Sen. Kamala Harris.
Pew Research Center recently published analysis finding that 46% of Democrats presently identify as liberal, making it a valuable bloc of primary voters for Democratic candidates and one that could bolster Warren’s candidacy if she continues to gain strength among the demographic. Liberals have grown in numbers since the early aughts, when “moderate” Democrats were the most dominant force in the party, registering around 43%-44%. Now moderates account for smaller share at 39%; combined with “conservative” Democrats, the cohort accounts for 53% of the party overall. Biden’s continued strength in national polling rests with those moderate and conservative Democrats, who backed him at 41% in the latest Q poll.
Perhaps the biggest primary questions moving forward will be: When will the engagement of the other Democratic voters start to match that of the most liberal cohort, and, when it does, will their allegiances change?