2020 polls: Biden leading heading into South Carolina with Steyer a surprise second

Graig Graziosi

Former Vice President Joe Biden has an 18 point lead over his Democratic rivals heading into Saturday's South Carolina primary according to a Clemson University poll released on Wednesday.

The poll reported that 35 per cent of respondents supported Mr Biden in the upcoming primary. Entrepreneur Tom Steyer, who has focused campaign advertising on the state, is in second place at 17 per cent.

The current party frontrunner, Senator Bernie Sanders, comes third, polling at 13 per cent.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are tied at eight per cent, while Senator Amy Klobuchar is on four per cent. Congresswoman Tusli Gabbard is on two per cent.

Twelve per cent of voters responded they were still unsure of who they’d vote for.

“Our polling shows that Biden has wide name recognition and stood in favour with older Democratic primary voters. Nearly half of those polled (40%) said they made up their minds 'before the primaries began' in 2020,” a statement released with the poll said.

The pollsters noted the “surprise” performance by Mr Steyer.

“The surprise showing is by Tom Steyer – who has played a small role in other primary elections, but appears as a prominent force in the Palmetto State electorate. Such a finding comes as no surprise to those familiar with South Carolina,” the statement said. “Candidate Steyer waged an aggressive media campaign weeks before the election and made personal appearances across the state in anticipation of the February 29 vote.”

Mr Steyer’s efforts in South Carolina are one reason why he and Mr Biden frequently clashed during Tuesday night’s South Carolina Democratic debate.

The Clemson poll statement noted that Mr Sanders performed decently, but could not overtake Mr Biden’s name recognition or long history with the state.

“Despite his victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Bernie Sanders could not overcome Biden’s strength in this southern state, but the Vermont senator still is popular with a projected third place finish,” the statement said.

The Clemson poll has a 3.8 per cent margin of error and is based on 650 respondents questioned using telephone responses, online and online panel voters, and was conducted between 17 February and 25 February.

Despite Mr Steyer’s second place finish, FiveThirtyEight polling averages still suggest Mr Sanders will take second place in the primary, placing him within 10 points of Mr Biden, who is expected to receive 31.2 per cent of the state’s support and the primary victory according to the site.

During Tuesday night’s debate, Mr Biden was asked by CBS news personality Gayle King if he’d drop out of the race if he lost the South Carolina primary.

“I will win in South Carolina,” Mr Biden replied.