NBC poll: Least desirable qualities in a 2020 nominee are being a socialist or over age 75

Good thing for Dems there’s no one polling very well in their primary right now who has both of those qualities.

I knew voters were wary of very old candidates but I would not have guessed they’d prefer to hand the nuclear codes to someone who’s under 40 if forced to choose.

That’s one of several fascinating numbers in the new NBC data. Another is staring back at you in the graph above: More American voters say they’d be enthusiastic about, or comfortable with, a black candidate than a white male. (Emphasis on “say.” Social desirability bias may be leading some to tell pollsters they’re more open to black nominees than they really are.) My favorite data point comes from the crosstabs, though, where the numbers in the graph above are compared to their historical trends. After all the hype of Bernie 2016, the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the mainstreaming of socialism on the left, you’d expect the 25 percent who said here that they’d be enthusiastic/comfortable with a socialist nominee to be much greater than the share who said so four years ago.

…But it’s actually less. In October 2015, 27 percent said they’d be enthusiastic/comfortable with a socialist. That two-point difference is within the poll’s margin of error so the number then is statistically the same as the number now but the result is still surprising. There’s been no growth in the number of Americans who’d be okay with a socialist candidate — or, perhaps, there was some growth in the interim but then the number began to shrink again. (Bad press from the Green New Deal, maybe?) That’s a bad result for the left.

This is a better one for them, sort of.

That contradicts a Monmouth poll published last month that got a lot of play in the media, including here. Monmouth offered Dems a choice between a nominee who agrees with them on most issues but would have a hard time beating Trump and a nominee who doesn’t agree with them on most issues but would be stronger against Trump. Dems split 56/33 for the more electable candidate in that case. In this new NBC poll, they seem to be going in the opposite direction, willing to put ideology above electability. But there’s an important footnote: When NBC asked this same question in 2015, more than 70 percent of Democrats prioritized ideology over electability. They’ve actually moved significantly towards valuing electability, in other words, presumably due to the urgency they feel to defeat Trump. They just haven’t moved all the way to the point where electability is now a majority preference.

Speaking of which, there’s some good news for Trump here. The share of voters who say they’ll definitely or probably vote for him in 2020 is growing over time — even since December, despite the unpopular shutdown.

Forty-one percent is an improvement but … not great. At this point in the 2012 cycle Obama was at 45/40. Bill Clinton had a lower number in early 1995 (38/42) than Trump has now, but it’s hard to find much comfort in that. Clinton’s approval numbers moved a lot during his presidency, famously rising even during the impeachment saga. Trump’s numbers hardly ever move, rain or shine. The only thing that might be able to deliver him another five points in the polls at this point is Democrats nominating another highly unpopular candidate.

One more number for you.

I’m going to guess that’s a blip driven by the shutdown plus the fact that even many Republicans (if not a majority) dislike Trump’s decision to use an emergency decree to try to obtain wall funding. What’s strange, though, is that POTUS’s job approval is up three points from January in this poll and, as noted, the share of Americans who say they’ll vote for him is rising. If his popularity is rebounding somewhat from the shutdown fiasco in other metrics, why not one in which Republicans are asked whether they’re more loyal to him or to the party?