Beto O’Rourke’s shaky polling looks like it’s not going to get any better, and it's a bad sign for his 2020 prospects

  • Beto O’Rourke is attempting to reboot his presidential bid with a media tour and a busy campaign schedule – but it doesn’t seem to be helping his middling poll numbers.
  • According to INSIDER polling, O’Rourke’s name recognition has increased 1% since December, but the percentage of Democrats who would be satisfied with him as the Democratic nominee dropped 18% in that time.
  • In March, 43% of Democrats thought he would beat Trump in a general election match-up compared to 27% who thought he would lose.
  • But in May, just 34% of Democratic voters thought he would defeat Trump, and over 30% believed he would lose.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is attempting to reboot his presidential bid with a media tour, including stops on “The View” and “The Rachel Maddow Show” on top of a busy campaign schedule – but it doesn’t seem to be helping his middling poll numbers.

O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress for three terms, rose from a little-known representative to a rising Democratic star after he came within striking distance of beating Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 Texas Senate race, shattering fundraising records along the way.

While 8% of likely Democratic voters supported O’Rourke at the time of his announcement, according to Morning Consult’s daily surveys, his support dipped down to 5%, and has stayed at that level since April 28.

Meanwhile, INSIDER has been conducting a recurring SurveyMonkey Audience national poll to track how each candidate’s level of support is evolving over time. You can download every single poll here, down to the individual respondent data.

At this point in the race, we’re mainly interested in using our polling to figure out what percentage of Democratic voters are familiar with each candidate, how satisfied they would be with each candidate as the nominee, and how they rate each candidate’s chances of beating President Donald Trump – and O’Rourke is underperforming based on all metrics.


Read more about how the INSIDER 2020 Democratic primary tracker works.

O’Rourke was, up until recently, deploying an “anti-media” strategy which involved eschewing prime-time cable news and talk show interviews in favour of being on the road, meeting as many voters as possible, and documenting it all on social media.

This type of unconventional campaign strategy helped him outperform expectations in his Senate race and made him a favourite of the national media over the course of just a few months. But it doesn’t seem to be translating well to a crowded presidential primary field, where O’Rourke is competing for national attention and support with 23 other Democrats.

When we first started polling O’Rourke in December 2018, 59% of self-identified Democratic and likely Democratic voters were aware of him. In the most recent version of our poll, which ran on May 10, 60% were aware of him, meaning his run for president in and of itself didn’t help even his name recognition.


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Beto O’Rourke announces massive $US9.4 million fundraising haul – bringing in the most money per day of any Democratic candidate

By contrast, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – who has opted to appear on nearly any media platform that will host him – saw his name recognition increase in INSIDER polling from 4% in December 2018 to 47% in May 2019.

Not only has O’Rourke failed to substantially raise his awareness, but Democratic voters are viewing him less far favourably, and as less likely to beat President Donald Trump in a general election match-up with every passing week.

The percentage of Democratic voters who would be satisfied with O’Rourke as the nominee plummeted from 58% in December to 47% the week after his announcement, and 42% in May. And the proportion who would be unsatisfied has more than doubled from 9% in December to 20% this month.

In early March, just prior to O’Rourke’s campaign announcement, 43% of Democrats thought he would beat Trump in a general election match-up compared to 27% who thought he would lose.

But since his announcement, his numbers have only gotten worse. As of May 10, just 34% of Democratic voters thought he would defeat Trump, and over 30% believed he would lose.

And in a Morning Consult survey of registered Democrats in Nevada conducted April 25-May 12, O’Rourke came in at 7th place with just 2% support.

While it’s still early on, this is a particularly concerning result given that O’Rourke’s path to the nomination will be contingent on a strong performance in the Sun Belt and among Hispanic voters, whom he won over in his Senate race against Cruz.

There are a number of possible reasons for the significant dip in O’Rourke’s performance among voters. As Peter Hamby argued in a recent piece for Vanity Fair, O’Rourke was easily positioned to be a Democratic saviour when he was running against Cruz, one of the most universally-despised Republican senators.


Read more:
Beto O’Rourke says it was a mistake to launch his campaign with a Vanity Fair profile because it reinforced ‘that perception of privilege’

But competing in a field of 23 fellow Democrats without a clear message or many unique policy ideas (or policy stances on many issues) has significantly diminished the unique value of O’Rourke’s appeal.

While other candidates got in the race as early as December and January, O’Rourke spent weeks driving around the Midwest and writing Medium blog posts where he described himself as “in a funk,” which some commentators viewed as oozing with the kind of privilege a female politician could never enjoy, and evidence he wasn’t truly serious about running for president.

But O’Rourke still has time to turn his bad numbers around in the next eight months before the Iowa caucuses. O’Rourke is scheduled to conduct a CNN town hall on Tuesday night, which could give him an opportunity t0 re-introduce himself to voters, and breathe life back into his campaign.

As Democratic strategist, Jess McIntosh told Vanity Fair, “not everyone is going to get it right from the jump, and they should have time to make repairs.”

Read more:

Beto O’Rourke is running for president in 2020. Here’s everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition.

Beto O’Rourke has been taking some down time to figure out how to revitalize his campaign after he dipped in the polls

Beto O’Rourke rejects Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up Amazon

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