Oft-Cited Emerson Presidential Poll Sampled Only 356 People

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders led the poll, which had a margin of error of 5.2 percent

Bernie Sanders at the Fox town hall
Mark Makela / Getty Images

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders led the poll, which had a margin of error of 5.2 percent

As the Democratic presidential contest gets underway, there hasn’t been much yet in the way of polling. As such, one poll released last week got a lot of attention.

In the Emerson national poll of the Democratic race, conducted between April 11 and 14 and released last week, Senator Bernie Sanders was shown leading with 29 percent in the large field, followed by the as-yet-undeclared former Vice President Joseph Biden with 24 percent. Coming in third was South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 9 percent, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris with 8 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 7 percent. Other candidates — Rep. Julian Castro, businessman Andrew Yang, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Senator Amy Klobuchar — polled at 3 percent or fewer.

The poll also asked some questions about who Biden supporters would vote for in the event the former vice president decides not to run, with Sanders picking up 31 percent of Biden’s supporters.

Emerson’s poll also included head-to-head matchups of each of the top Democratic candidates against President Donald Trump. Biden was seen gaining 53 percent against Trump’s 47 percent, while Sanders was polled at 51 percent versus Trump’s 48 percent, with O’Rourke getting 51 percent against Trump’s 49 percent. Harris against Trump, per the Emerson poll, is a 50/50 proposition, while Warren and Buttigieg were seen as losing against the president.

Emerson’s poll also says that while Trump’s approval rating remains at 43 percent, against a disapproval rating of 49 percent, the poll shows Trump with a huge lead over former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who is challenging him in the Republican primaries.

However, there are reasons for the poll to be taken with a grain of salt. One, the poll only interviewed 356 people, giving it a margin of error of 5.2 percent. Secondly, the poll was landline-only. Perhaps most notably, it’s still extremely early, as the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are more than eight months away. There have been no debates yet, and there are still candidates who have not yet gotten in the race.

Biden is expected to announce this week that he will mount a third campaign for president, following his runs in 1988 and 2008. Even though he hasn’t yet announced that he’s running, Emerson polling director Spencer Kimball said that Biden has actually lost some support of late.

“In February, [Biden] led Sanders 27% to 17%, and in March the two were tied at 26%. Now, Sanders has a 5 point lead, 29% to 24%,” Kimball said, as part of the release of the poll.