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Who are African Americans, Latinos, Women and Men supporting for president?

A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released just day before the first votes of the 2020 nominating contest are cast Feb. 3 in Iowa concludes many voters are agonizing over which candidate would be best equipped to beat Trump. 

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is leading in the polls, mail due his strong support among African Americans and people who want a candidate who can beat Trump. Backing from those groups, which significantly overlap, could help Biden weather political storms if he has a weak showing in Iowa on Monday and, a week later, in the New Hampshire primary, where polls show the former vice president also faces stiff competition.

The new poll, however, also backs up a key argument made by Biden’s top rivals — that he is not the only one who could beat Trump. The survey found that Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also outpolled Trump in hypothetical head-to-head matchups, although by narrower margins than Biden.

This poll was conducted Jan. 15 to Jan. 28, among 4,869 registered voters nationwide, including 2,227 who said they expected to cast a ballot in Democratic primaries and caucuses. 

Overall, the nationwide poll finds the top-tier candidates aligning in much the way they did when USC last polled in October. Among likely Democratic primary voters, 34% say they support or are leaning toward Biden. Sanders and Warren are essentially tied, with 18% and 16%, respectively; Pete Buttigieg trails with 9%; Amy Klobuchar gets 3%.

The biggest change in the candidate lineup comes in the emergence of Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former New York mayor, who in November made a late entrance into the race. He has already caught up to Buttigieg, the poll found, drawing support from 9% of likely Democratic primary voters. Like Biden, his strongest selling point is his perceived electability: 24% of Bloomberg’s voters say they chose him because they believe he could beat Trump. Half as many said they picked him because he shares their values.

Because the USC survey questions the same panel of people each poll, it can keep track of how their preferences change over time. An analysis of Bloomberg’s supporters finds that 38% of them had backed Biden in October; 22% had backed Warren; and 22% had been undecided.

Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey had hoped to challenge Biden for support among African Americans. But Biden, who benefits from having served eight years as vice president to President Obama, has kept a firm grip on this key demographic: The poll finds that 53% of Black voters support Biden, compared with 19% for Sanders and 10% for Warren.

Black voters make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in some southern states and a large share of the vote in the large industrial states of the Midwest and Northeast.

But Sanders is making progress reaching out to other communities of color: Among Latino voters, Sanders ties Biden, with 28% backing Biden and 29% backing Sanders.

Asked the main reason behind their choice of a candidate, 17% of voters say their preferred candidate “represents my own values and beliefs very well;” 17% say the candidate “has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump;” and 15% say the person “is the best candidate to bring major changes to the U.S.”

Looking ahead to the general election, when voters of both parties were asked to choose between Trump and each of five top Democratic candidates, the challengers all outpolled the president, but only Biden, Sanders and Warren did so by a statistically significant margin.

Biden fared slightly better than progressive stalwarts Sanders and Warren. Trump trailed Biden by 9 percentage points, Sanders by 7 points, Warren by 4 points, Buttigieg by 3 points and Klobuchar by 2 points, the poll found.

Those hypothetical matchups underscore the importance of gender in 2020: Women favor all of the Democrats over Trump by double-digit margins. Men back Trump, but by single-digit margins.

At a time when Democrats are debating whether it would be harder for a woman to beat Trump, the poll found that Trump got more support from men when he was matched against a woman. Men favored Trump by 1 point against Biden, 5 points against Sanders and 6 points against Buttigieg. But men favored the president by 7 points against Warren and 9 against Klobuchar.

Although Warren is making a more direct appeal to women in her closing campaign argument in Iowa, the poll finds her lagging behind Biden among female voters. Warren runs strongest among White women: 21% back Warren, second only to the 27% who favor Biden. But Biden has a gigantic lead among Black women: 53% support him, compared with 18% for Sanders and 12% for Warren.

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