Joe Biden has a massive lead over Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democratic presidential hopefuls in South Carolina, according to a Monmouth University poll published Thursday.
The poll, released two days before the crucial first-in-the-South primary, shows Biden with an advantage of 20 percentage points over Sanders, 36 percent to 16 percent.
Billionaire self-funder Tom Steyer, who has spent far more money in South Carolina than any other candidate, is third, with 15 percent — the only other candidate in double-digits or even approaching the critical 15-percent threshold to earn statewide delegates.
A resounding victory in South Carolina would give Biden much needed momentum going into Super Tuesday after his abysmal showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and his distant second-place finish in Nevada.
Biden is being propelled in South Carolina by African American voters, who make up a majority of the state's Democratic primary electorate. He is the first choice of 45 percent of black voters, the poll shows — that's much more than are backing Steyer (17 percent) or Sanders (13 percent). That could bode well for Biden in a handful of southeastern states with large black populations also holding primaries next month, including Alabama and North Carolina on March 3, Mississippi on March 10, and Georgia on March 24.
The Monmouth University poll was conducted Feb. 23-25 — mostly before Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston, S.C., and entirely before Biden earned the endorsement of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a longtime black political figure in South Carolina who represents one of only two Democratic-held congressional districts in the state.
After the top candidates are three others who have struggled to earn significant support from black voters: Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 6 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 4 percent. Warren Massachusetts senator is has the support of only 5 percent of African American voters, but that’s more than Buttigieg’s 2 percent or Klobuchar’s zero percent.
While Sanders cobbled together a cross-section of Democrats to win a blowout victory in Nevada last week, there are signs he is struggling to reassemble that coalition in South Carolina. The Vermont senator lags 25 points behind Biden among female voters, falls 40 points behind Biden among seniors, and trails Biden by 24 points among those who describe their political ideologies as moderate or conservative.
Biden, meanwhile, leads almost across the board. He’s still the top candidate among voters younger than 50, leading Sanders 31 percent to 18 percent; Steyer is at 16 percent. Among voters who describe themselves as liberal, Biden is at 33 percent, to 24 percent for Sanders, 16 percent for Warren and 13 percent for Steyer.
The poll surveyed 454 likely Democratic primary voters, sampled from a list of voters who participated in at least one primary or general election in 2018 or 2016. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.