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Poll: Kamala Harris gaining among Democratic voters

Sen. Kamala Harris arrives for a rally launching her presidential campaign in Oakland, California, on Jan. 27. | Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

Kamala Harris made headlines in her first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate with her firm support for a “Medicare for all” health care plan. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll suggests the California senator’s stance is connecting with Democratic voters.

A majority of Democrats, 57 percent, said they would be more likely to support a candidate who backs Medicare for all, in which all Americans get their health insurance from the government, the poll shows. Only 22 percent would be less likely to support a candidate who would prefer Medicare for all, over preserving and improving the existing system under the Affordable Care Act.

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The poll, conducted Jan. 25-27, also shows Harris gaining steam amid the rollout of her campaign, which began on Jan. 21, when she announced on “Good Morning America” that she would run for president. She’s now the third choice of Democratic voters, who were asked to pick their favorite person for the party’s nomination next year.

Over the course of four surveys this month, former Vice President Joe Biden has ranged between 26 percent and 33 percent among Democratic voters, roughly twice the support of the next candidate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been between 15 percent and 16 percent.

Harris is at 10 percent, up from 3 percent earlier this month. That puts her ahead of the next two candidates: former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both of whom are at 6 percent in the poll. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is in sixth place, at 3 percent — while no other candidate earns more than 2 percent.

“While Sanders and Biden continue to outpace other potential nominees, Kamala Harris appears to be gaining strength with Democrats since launching her presidential bid,” Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president, said.

With roughly a year to go until the first ballots are cast in the Democratic presidential nominating process, the candidates’ standings in national surveys are mostly a reflection of their name identification. Harris has modestly increased her name recognition during the past month, with the percentage of Democrats who said they don’t know enough about her to form an opinion dropping from 53 percent earlier in January to 43 percent.

The poll surveyed 685 self-identified Democratic voters and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. It does not include voters who identified as independents, even if they said they leaned Democrat.

In addition to Medicare for all, the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll asked Democratic voters to evaluate other candidate positions and traits to explore which could be assets or liabilities for the candidates. Harris is one of four women in Congress who have entered the race, and 39 percent of Democrats said they’d be more likely to vote for a woman, compared to 13 percent who’d be less likely to vote for a female candidate.

Similarly, the 32 percent of Democrats who would be more likely to vote for a candidate of color is four times the 8 percent who would be less likely to vote for a person of color, the poll shows. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 Democrats would be more likely to vote for a gay candidate, twice as many as the 12 percent who said they would be less likely. South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who is gay — entered the race last week.

The poll also explored some potential millstones for Democratic candidates, especially Biden. The former vice president has backtracked in recent weeks from his work to pass the Clinton-era crime bill, and the poll shows a 44 percent plurality of voters would be less likely to support a candidate who helped enact policies that led to higher incarceration rates — more than the 16 percent who would be more likely to support that candidate. More than a third, 37 percent, would be less likely to support a candidate who supported the Iraq War, which began in 2003, while just 14 percent would be more likely.

A slim majority of Democratic voters, 51 percent, would be less likely to support a candidate with a history of changing positions on policies and issues. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has recanted her past, less liberal positions on gun rights and immigration since entering the race earlier this month.

And nearly half, 48 percent, would be less likely to support a candidate who had accepted donations from Wall Street, which is considered a potential liability for Booker, whose political base in Newark, N.J., sits just across the Hudson River from New York.

On immigration, Democratic voters were split on whether they would be more likely or less likely to back a candidate who supported more immigrants coming to the country — both responses got 31 percent. But 46 percent would be less likely to support a candidate who took “a hard line on immigration” — more than twice the percentage of those who would be more likely, 20 percent.

More Democratic voters — 37 percent said — they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported getting rid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement than would be more likely to back a candidate who supported abolishing ICE — 25 percent.

Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.

More details on the poll and its methodology can be found in these two documents — Toplines: https://politi.co/2sVkE9s | Crosstabs: https://politi.co/2Us6zfr

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