Joe Biden Vs. Bernie Sanders Debate Changed Almost Nothing In Democratic Race, Poll Shows Before Tuesday Vote

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders faced off in a one-on-one debate Sunday, but the results showed that it had little impact on the race.

Images of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden appear on TV.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders faced off in a one-on-one debate Sunday, but the results showed that it had little impact on the race.

The last two major Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, squared off in their first one-on-one debate of the campaign season on Sunday night. But even with some spirited exchanges, as Sanders challenged Biden’s previous voting record on issues such as social security and the Iraq war, the debate appears to have done little to help or harm either candidate.

That conclusion comes from a new poll released on Monday that was commissioned by FiveThirtyEight and conducted by the research agency Ipsos. According to the poll’s results, Biden was the “winner” of the debate in terms of gaining support from voters — but not by much.

Biden entered the debate with a wide lead over Sanders after winning the Michigan primary as well as primaries in Mississippi, Missouri, and Washington on the previous Tuesday. The victories gave Biden a 141-delegate lead over Sanders.

If the results of the FiveThirtyEight poll are an indicator, Biden appears positioned to increase that lead on March 17, when three more states are set to hold primaries: Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. A fourth state, Ohio, postponed its primary election due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In all, 441 more delegates will be up for grabs on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post, with Biden now appearing likely to take the overwhelming majority of those delegates, leaving Sanders in an even deeper hole.

According to the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, Biden enjoyed support from an overwhelming 63.2 percent of Democratic voters prior to the debate. After the debate wrapped up at 10 p.m. EDT on Sunday night, Biden’s support had ticked up to 66.6 percent — making the former Vice President the choice of two out of every three Democrats.

Sanders, on the other hand, received 38.7 perfect support prior to the debate. After the showdown with Biden, Sanders saw his support drop, albeit by only two points, to 36.7 percent.

The poll also measured overall favorability for both candidates. This time, the results showed that the two candidates each helped himself with his debate performance — albeit only by small amounts. Biden was viewed favorably by 73.4 percent of Democrats prior to the poll, and an even 74 percent afterward.

Sanders entered the poll with a favorability rating of 65.4 percent and left the debate viewed favorably by 67.4 percent of Democrats.

The results suggest that there will be little change in the election results on Tuesday from what polls strongly indicate — a heavy Biden victory across the board. According to the political data site Real Clear Politics, a Univision poll in Florida showed Biden well ahead there, 63-25, while an NBC News/Marist College poll in Arizona also put Biden well ahead of Sanders, 53-36.

The latest Illinois poll, released by Emerson College on Friday, showed Biden with a big win in that state as well, with 57 percent support for Biden to just 36 for Sanders.