Primary season is officially upon us! With the clusterf*ck that is the Iowa Caucus continuing to unfold and results now in from New Hampshire, what better time to talk about who the LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people right here and right now (well actually in December) want the next president to be?
Results are in from Autostraddle’s Politics Survey, and Elizabeth Warren is unquestionably the favored candidate! No matter how many ways I look at this data, that story doesn’t change.
How Much of a Lead Does Warren Have?
We asked respondents which presidential primary they would vote in, regardless of if they could vote in the US; 96% said they would vote in the Democratic primary. Among those 96%, we asked who their top choice candidate was and to select all of the candidates they had a favorable impression of. It’s also important to note that this survey first went out on December 3rd, and since then, many candidates have left the race, and some survey-takers may have changed their minds.
I’ve combined the results of the top choice and favorability questions in the chart below. The green portion of each bar shows the proportion of Autostraddle’s Politics Survey respondents who picked that candidate as their top choice. The blue portion of the bar shows how many respondents indicated they had a favorable impression of the candidate, even though that candidate wasn’t their top choice. I’ve excluded candidates who were rated favorably by less than 4% of our respondents.
Warren far outpaces the other Democratic nominees with 64% of respondents choosing her as their top choice. Bernie Sanders comes in second place, as the top choice of 23% of respondents, and everyone else was the top choice of 4% or fewer of our respondents.
Respondents were split nearly evenly when asked if they would definitely support their top choice candidate or if they might change their mind, which makes the overall favorability of candidates an important measure to look at. In total, 94% of respondents viewed Warren favorably, with the majority picking her as their top choice. Sanders comes the closest to Warren, with a total of 71% of respondents viewing him favorably or selecting him as their top choice candidate.
Since the survey launched, Kamala Harris, Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson, Cory Booker, John Delaney, Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet and Deval Patrick have suspended their campaigns. Over 6% of our respondents picked Castro or Harris as their top choice. We didn’t ask about second choice candidates, but we can look at the favorability ratings to get an idea of who those 6% of respondents might support among the candidates still in the race.
The chart below shows the favorability ratings of the candidates still in the race, among our respondents who selected Castro and Harris as their top choice. Once again, Warren leads the pack, with nearly 85% of both groups having a favorable impression of her. Sanders does better among top-choice Castro respondents than top-choice Harris respondents (57% versus 42%). Less than 15% of top-choice Castro respondents viewed any of the other candidates favorably. Top-choice Harris respondents, on the other hand, were more willing to give other candidates a chance, with sizable proportions of this group having favorable impressions of Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden.
One thing that stands out from the chart above is how Warren appears to appeal to respondents with differing ideological stances, given that Castro and Harris had different positions on a number of issues. Warren has positioned herself as the unity candidate, and this seems to play out among our respondents more broadly as well.
On the 2016 Autostraddle Reader Survey (conducted after the primary), 52% of respondents said they voted for Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and 46% said they voted for Clinton. We captured a similarly mixed group in our recent politics survey. Of the respondents to Autostraddle’s Politics Survey who said they could vote in the 2016 primary, 47% voted for Clinton, 41% voted for Sanders and 13% did not vote in the primary election. And when we look at their top choice candidate in 2020, a majority of each of these camps selected Warren: 81% of Clinton voters, 53% of 2016-Sanders voters and 62% of respondents who didn’t vote in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Out/YouGov’s poll conducted last November also found Warren and Sanders to be the leading candidates among LGBTQ+ voters but with much smaller margins, with Warren getting 31% of the vote and Sanders 18%. Biden and Buttigieg both did far better on the Out/YouGov poll than they performed among our respondents. That poll looked at the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, however, and did not disaggregate results by gender identity, which makes it hard to compare to our survey focused on people who identified as queer women, non-binary, and/or trans.
On the other hand, Whitman Insight/Buzzfeed’s poll of LGBTQ+ Americans conducted last June had Warren behind Sanders and Biden and tied for third place with Buttigieg. That poll did disaggregate results by gender identity and sexual orientation. I’ll compare our results by sexual orientation to the Whitman Insights/Buzzfeed results in more detail below. (Gender identity was handled differently on that poll than how we asked it, so it’s hard to compare those results.)
Let’s Talk about Electability
We also asked survey takers what was more important to them: a nominee who agreed with their positions on most issues, or a candidate who could win the general election? Some of you were so mad we asked this question!
Respondents to our politics survey were split almost 50-50 between the two options. According to the latest national polls, we’re either just as concerned about electability as the rest of the country (according to the Quinnipiac poll conducted February 5 to February 9) or much less concerned about it (according to The Economist/YouGov poll conducted February 2 to February 4, which found that 71% of Democratic primary voters wanted a candidate who can win in November). Who even knows where the truth lies?
As a few people pointed out in their comments, the electability debate is often a cover for misogyny and racism. This came into the limelight about a month ago when a private conversation between Warren and Sanders that allegedly touched on the electability of a woman for president became the focus of the pre-primary news cycle. Electability is an ambiguous, poorly defined concept that has gotten a substantial amount of attention this primary season. At this point, I think you can find an article making the case that every candidate both is and is not “electable,” though the extent to which “not being electable” affects the viability of a campaign certainly changes when the charge is leveled at women or people of color by the mainstream media.
Our poll bears out the notion that maybe electability is just in the eye of the beholder. About 30% of our respondents who prioritize winning the general election have mixed views on which candidate can make that happen, but nearly 70% think that Warren is that person.
Warren has hovered in the 14 to 16 percent range on national polls since the end of November and her ratings appear to have taken a downturn in the last week, according to RealClear Politics. Before the Iowa caucuses, the focus was squarely on Sanders and Biden as the front runners. The Associated Press still hasn’t declared a winner in Iowa yet because of issues with the vote count, the very small difference between votes cast for Buttigieg and Sanders, and the requests for a recanvas from both of those campaigns. Sanders and Buttigieg again led in New Hampshire, and Klobuchar came out with delegates in third place.
Clearly, the queer folks who responded to our survey feel otherwise. But is that true for all of our community?
Before we get into breaking the survey results down by smaller demographic groups, a bit about who took the survey and how.
Autostraddle’s Politics Survey launched on December 3, 2019 and was open until January 10, 2020. It was available for anyone to take online through a post on Autostraddle’s website. (For the stats-y people among us, yes, this is a convenience sample.) Over 4,400 people started the survey and about two-thirds made it to the mandatory questions on gender identity and sexual orientation towards the end of the survey. (Yes, it was very long.)
Our analysis is restricted to people who completed the survey and identified as queer women, non-binary, and/or trans, which gives us our sample of 2,834 respondents.
The chart below shows key demographic characteristics of our respondents and compares them to the LGBTQ+ people in the US using data from the Williams Institute and the US adult population using data from the Census and data from the CDC. More details on the demographics of our respondents are available in the extended demographics document.
Warren Leads Across The Board, But Size of Lead Varies By Demographic Group
Our respondents are a varied group and some populations are quite small. Disaggregating the results by demographic characteristics is important so that we don’t lose the voices of different members of our community. Warren remains in the lead with every sub-group I analyzed besides educational attainment (Bernie has a slight lead with people who don’t have bachelor’s degrees), but there are still variances in how much of a lead she has.
Cis Women Least Likely to Choose Sanders as Their Top Choice
More than half of our respondents selected Warren as their top choice, regardless of gender identity, but there are some meaningful differences by gender identity in terms of how many respondents preferred Warren versus Sanders.
Cis women especially seemed to prefer a Warren candidacy and were the least likely to pick Sanders as thier top choice, with several selecting one of the other candidates instead. In fact, a third of cis women didn’t even rate Sanders favorably, compared with a fifth or less of our respondents of any other gender identity.
Sanders does much better among trans women and non-binary people, with 38% and 34% of those respondents, respectively, choosing Sanders as their top choice. Warren is the top choice candidate for just over half of these two groups. Compared to the candidate preferences of cis women on the one hand and trans women and non-binary people on the other, non-binary women fall somewhere in the middle.
Some of the differences by gender identity that we’re seeing on our survey are related to age, but that’s not the only explanation. I’ll discuss this in more detail below, but Sanders has a stronger showing among our younger respondents. The extended demographics document shows that non-binary people who took our survey are younger than people of other gender identities. Our respondents who are cis women and non-binary women are fairly similar in age, and we even have a higher proportion of trans women respondents over the age of 35 than cis women respondents. Differences in the age ranges of people of different gender identities is part of the story, but it definitely isn’t the only explanation for why our respondents differ in their support of Warren and Sanders by gender identity.
As we saw earlier, respondents less concerned with electability were more likely to choose Sanders as their top choice. Breaking that down by gender identity, about two thirds of both non-binary people and trans women respondents wanted a candidate who agreed with their position on most issues, compared with just under half of cis women and just over half of non-binary women. But even among the non-binary people who were less concerned about electability, a greater proportion picked Warren; among trans women less concerned about electability the two candidates were basically tied.
Not a Whole Lot of Differences by Sexual Orientation
We see some differences by sexual orientation between the proportion of respondents choosing Warren and Sanders as their top choice, but nothing drastic.
The slight differences we see between the proportion of lesbian/gay and the proportion of queer respondents choosing Sanders as their top choice can partially be explained by the sexual orientation identification of people of different gender identities (see the extended demographics document). Sanders’s slightly stronger performance among bisexual, pansexual, and sexually fluid respondents appears to be in-line with the Whitman/Buzzfeed results, which showed a higher proportion of bisexual people voting for Sanders than lesbian or gay people. Sanders is also the top choice for a greater proportion of our asexual or similarly-identified respondents.
The Appeal of Candidates Other Than Warren or Sanders Differs by Race/Ethnicity (When They Were Still in the Race)
Differences by race/ethnicity are much harder to draw conclusions from because of the small number of non-white respondents on our survey. Nonetheless, the limited data we do have seems to suggest some differences in candidate preferences by race/ethnicity.
Warren was the top choice candidate for a majority of our respondents regardless of race/ethnicity, but she did better with some races/ethnicities than others. Our Latinx/Hispanic respondents were the least likely to pick Warren as their top choice and the most likely to pick candidates other than Warren or Sanders instead, with Castro and Harris each receiving just about 10% of Latinx/Hispanic respondents’ top choice selections. (When our survey launched, Castro and Harris had not yet suspended their campaigns, and earlier I showed how top-choice Castro and top-choice Harris viewed the candidates still in the race; the number of Latinx/Hispanic respondents who preferred Castro or Harris is too low to look at their responses separately.) In contrast, Sanders leads among Hispanic voters in the latest national polls from Morning Consult conducted between February 4 and February 9, and The Economist/YouGov.
Our Black respondents appear the least likely to pick Sanders as their top choice. That said, we had a relatively low number of Black respondents to our survey – just 67 said they would vote in the Democratic primary. The latest The Economist/YouGov poll shows Warren performing better than Sanders among Black voters. The slightly more recent poll from Quinnipiac, however, finds Warren in fifth place among Black voters, getting just 8% of the vote from that demographic. The latest Morning Consult poll similarly has Warren polling at 8% among Black voters. All three of these polls have Biden continuing to be the candidate this constituency is most likely to vote for, but Biden is losing some of his lead to a rising Michael Bloomberg.
As always the polls are full of noise, and it’s hard to know whether the differences we’re seeing between the polls are in response to current events – Bloomberg has spent nearly $8 million on ads in North Carolina alone – or if this is just another blip in all the data. It’s also worth keeping in mind that our respondents are much younger than all of the national polls, which try to mirror the landscape of registered voters or (even more intangible) “likely” voters. The demographics chart above shows that over 60% of registered voters are 45 or older, compared with just 6% of our respondents in that age range.
Multiracial respondents were the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to pick Sanders, with 28% of them selecting him as their top choice candidate. Our multiracial respondents are varied, with biracial Latinx + white and biracial Asian/Pacific Islander + white being the two largest groups.
Warren Has a Smaller Lead among People with Disabilities
Once again, Warren was the top choice candidate for more than half of our respondents who reported living with a disability or indicated the situation around that was complicated. Yet we see that Sanders clearly does better among those living with a disability or who said the situation is complicated than those who aren’t living with a disability.
Those respondents were also more likely to pick Castro, who was the top choice candidate of 7% of our respondents living with a disability and 5% of our respondents who said the situation is complicated, compared to just 2% of respondents not living with a disability.
We didn’t have free-text boxes related specifically to disability rights, but a few people living with disabilities emphasized how critical Medicare for All was for them as an issue when it comes to the primary.
Disability rights are finally starting to get the attention and engagement they deserve, with several candidates releasing disability policies. Castro (before he dropped out), Warren, and Sanders, in particular, developed comprehensive plans that addressed issues disability rights activists have been highlighting for years – that the challenges facing people with disabilities go beyond healthcare and include discrimination in employment, housing, and education.
People with disabilities turned out to vote at higher rates in the 2018 congressional elections than prior years, and are expected to be a key constituency in the 2020 election. At this point, I haven’t been able to find any polls showing the candidate preferences of people with disabilities, but drop a note in the comments if you know of one.
Results by Other Demographics
I looked at results by region, age, education and income because our survey under-represented certain groups based on these characteristics. In almost every single one of these cuts, Warren is the top choice candidate of the greatest proportion (in most cases, the majority) of respondents. Pretty much all of the differences we see are about how much of a lead she has among a particular demographic.
The results are fairly consistent across regions, with Warren in the lead across the board. Western US residents and non-US residents were more likely to choose Sanders as their top choice, whereas southern US residents were more likely to pick another candidate. In national polls, the northeast is Sanders’ stronghold. A greater proportion of our respondents living in rural locations also supported Sanders compared to respondents in urban and suburban areas.
Sanders leads national polls by a wide margin among people aged 18-29. (He has a 25 percentage point lead within this group, according to the latest The Economist/YouGov poll.) Among our respondents aged 18-24, Warren just barely edges out Sanders 45% to 42%, but Warren has a much stronger lead with those aged 25-29 (65% Warren, 26% Sanders), and she is even stronger among our respondents aged 30 or older.
By education level, Warren was strongest among our respondents with more degrees, whereas Sanders did better among those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree and even had a slight lead among those who had earned up to a high school diploma as their highest credential. Sanders’ strong showing among people with fewer educational credentials is consistent with national polls.
Nearly 40% of respondents with annual incomes less than $30,000 selected Sanders as their top choice compared to just over 50% choosing Warren. Those earning between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, however, more clearly preferred Warren, with just over 20% picking Sanders as their top choice.
At the End of the Day, Trump Has Got to Go
With nine months to go until the general election and a primary season that started over a year ago with no end in sight, it can feel like the divisions within the Democratic Party are too substantial to bring a coalition together. Yet almost all – over 97% – of our respondents asserted that they will vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination over Trump in the general election; this was the case regardless of the demographic characteristics of our respondents.
That’s not true nationally, though. About 10% of respondents on the latest The Economist/YouGov poll said “it depends” when asked if they would vote for Trump or for whoever the Democratic Party candidate ends up being. Hopefully, that begins to shift once Democrats have a candidate, but we can’t count on that alone. This year I’m committed to donating to Stacey Abrams’s organization Fair Fight, writing postcards and participating in get out the vote drives. What’s your plan?