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Poll: Democrats see Biden, Warren as close fits ideologically, view Sanders as more extreme

David Lauter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

A ban on certain types of semiautomatic rifles coupled with a plan to buy back those already in private hands gets widespread support. Several other countries have adopted ban-plus-buyback plans, most recently New Zealand, and Democratic candidates are increasingly advocating it. Potential voters support the idea, 56% to 31%.

A majority of Republicans oppose it, however, with more than a third saying they are "strongly opposed." That's enough to all but assure that the Republican-majority Senate would block such a plan.

A close divide on whether it is fair or unfair to blame Trump's language for encouraging extremists to commit violent acts.

Just over 4 in 10 call that fair criticism, while just under 4 in 10 say it is unfair. The rest say they hadn't heard enough to say.

Currently, Biden leads the field, as he has in all three USC/L.A. Times polls this year. He has the backing of 28% of Democratic voters, the poll finds. Sanders, with 13%, and Warren, with 11%, come next.

Democratic voters overall view California Sen. Harris as nearest their own position ideologically, the poll found, but she has returned to single digits, at 8%. The poll showed Pete Buttigieg at 4%, Beto O'Rourke at 3% and both Sen. Cory Booker and Andrew Yang at 2%. No other candidates get more than 1%.

 

The race remains fluid, however. The USC/L.A. Times poll uses a panel of more than 7,000 American citizens of voting age, allowing their responses to be tracked over time. Across the three polls this year -- in April, July and the current survey -- about 1 in 4 have had a different favorite candidate each time. The share that has consistently backed the same candidate in all three polls is only slightly higher.

Currently, about 1 in 4 say they are undecided. The ideological position of those undecided voters is closer to how voters perceive Biden than to any of his major rivals, which could give the former vice president an additional cushion.

To measure ideology, the poll asked respondents to rate themselves, Trump and the top Democratic candidates on a 0-100 scale, with 0 as the most liberal and 100 the most conservative.

On average, those who said they expected to vote in a Democratic primary rated themselves as somewhat left of center, at 40. They rated Biden a bit to their right, at 46, and Warren roughly the same distance to their left, at 34. Sanders was rated at 28 -- the furthest to the left of the four candidates tested -- and Harris was at 37.

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