Maggie Nolan

As the Democratic presidential candidates gear up for their third debate, Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has garnered the most support among Yale students, according to the results of a recent News survey.

The survey — which had a total of 1,392 respondents, a 23.3 percent response rate — polled students on their opinions about the upcoming 2020 Democratic and Republican primaries. In addition to Warren’s popularity in comparison to the other 19 Democratic candidates, the survey results demonstrated apathy toward the Republican presidential primary and high projected primary participation among Democratic voters. The results have not been adjusted for selection bias.

The survey found that, of 894 respondents who said they are eligible to vote in the Democratic primaries, 96 percent will “definitely” or “probably” vote in next year’s election. In the case of the 116 eligible to vote in the Republican primary, 67 percent said they “definitely” or “probably” will, 20 percent said they “definitely” or “probably” will not and 13 percent were unsure.

“The primary is the first chance to get our country back on the right track; it’s our test run for the real thing but also a critical step in regaining our standing as pre-eminent, lead-by example democracy,” said Yaakov Huba ’23, a student from North Carolina.

Support for Warren was strong, with 33 percent of 1,274 respondents to the question saying they would most like to see her win the Democratic nomination.

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders came in second and third, with 13.2 and 12.9 percent favoring each of them, respectively. Around 10 percent of respondents had no opinion on the matter, eight percent supported former Vice President Joe Biden and eight percent supported entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Each of the other Democratic candidates captured less than five percent of votes.

Among the 861 respondents who said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote in the Democratic primary, Warren still remained the most popular, with 42 percent favoring her. Favor for Sanders slightly trumped that for Buttigieg, with each of them capturing 15 and 14 percent of the vote, respectively. Biden and Yang both saw five percent support among this group.

“For many Democrats, the most important issue in 2020 is defeating Donald Trump and his destructive brand of right-wing false populism,” said Hilary Griggs ’23. “However, 2020 is also reshaping the ideological image of the Party; candidates such as Warren and Sanders have already drawn the party significantly to the left, and I believe that will only continue. In 2020, Americans are not only choosing between Democratic and Republican, but more specifically what kind of Democratic Party they believe in.”

Survey respondents’ Democratic primary preferences differ from broader U.S. opinions, with recent national polls putting Biden at the top of the pack. According to Real Clear Politics, the average of national polls from Aug. 22 to Sept. 10 puts Biden — with 28.1 percent — 10.5 percentage points ahead of both Warren and Sanders. Buttigieg, one of the more popular candidates among Yalies, has recently polled at just 4.6 percent, coming in behind U.S. Senator from California Kamala Harris, who has 6.9 percent support.

Of 473 responses to the question, “What do you think is (are) the most important issue(s) that the eventual Democratic nominee must address?” 289 included “climate change,” “the environment” or another related term.

“Climate change is the single most important threat to humanity, and I will vote solely based on which candidate has the most progressive and definitive plan to combat the climate disaster,” said Abel Negussie ’22. “Right now, that candidate is either Sanders or Warren.”

In the Republican primary, which includes presidential incumbent Donald Trump, former U.S. Representative from Illinois Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, the majority of respondents remained apathetic. Fifty-six percent of 1,271 respondents said they had no opinion on the issue, 17 percent favored Weld, 14 percent preferred Trump and 13 percent chose Walsh.

Among 116 respondents who said they were eligible to vote in the Republican primary next year, support for Trump was most common. Sixty-three percent said they would prefer Trump, five percent Walsh and nine percent Weld. Twenty-two percent had no opinion. Real Clear Politics polling averages from March 1 to Aug. 26 show Trump leading over Weld by 72.5 percentage points.

Of students who said they were eligible to vote in the Republican party, many expressed that issues such as immigration, gun control and foreign policy are important for the eventual nominee to address.

“The most critical issue facing the Republican Party as of right now is our conflict in whether to abide by or to relinquish traditional stances on gun control and background checks,” said Andrew Song ’22. “As a conservative, I believe that we can no longer ignore the fact that our party must conceive proper reform to stop mass shootings.”

The next Democratic debate will take place on Thursday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.

Asha Prihar |

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.