Warren Closes The Electability Gap

Warren Rises In the Face of Beliefs That Others May Not Vote For A Woman

Between Oct 1- Oct 4, 2019 Avalanche Strategy fielded a listening survey to 1,041 registered Democratic voters to understand how the concept of electability is influencing the beliefs and behavior of likely Democratic primary voters. This research builds on previously released electability research, published in June 2019.


Warren leads in both the traditional horse race question (29%) and as the preferred president when electability is factored out (32%).

Rather than asking voters about the elusive topic of electability directly, our methodology isolates the effect of considering electability on vote choice, We first asked a typical “horse race” question about who the respondent would support if the primary election were today. Later in the survey, we asked respondents to imagine that they have a magic wand and can make any of the candidates president --  they don’t have to beat anyone or win the election -- and then asked who the respondent would choose. 

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  • Since June, Warren has climbed 13 point in the traditional horse race and 11 points in the magic wand question - making significant gains on vote choice and nearly closing the electability gap.

  • While Warren is now the top candidate and perceived to be equally or more electable, Biden continues to experience the greatest benefit from perceived electability

  • Buttigieg and Harris have experienced a widening of their electability gap, while Sanders overall support has decreased and he’s maintained a 1 point electability gap

Warren has made these gains despite many likely democratic primary voters believing gender negatively impacts electability.


Following the findings of our previous research that highlighted to role of gender in perceived electability, we dove deeper in this research to evaluate how voters perceive gender impacting their own vote, the votes of others, and the election overall.

  • 53% of likely Democratic primary voters cite believing it is Harder or Much Harder for a female candidate to defeat Trump.

  • When asked in open-ended format what their magic wand candidate would need to change be the strongest possible candidate to beat Trump, gender was referenced more than twice as often as any other attribute or characteristic


Very few likely Democratic primary voters believe a candidate’s gender impacts their own vote choice, but 47% believe that other people are less likely to vote for a woman. 

  • Only 2% of likely Democratic primary voters report believing that they are less likely to vote for a candidate because the candidate is a woman

  • But 47% also report believing that being a woman makes it less likely or much less likely that others will vote for that candidate.

The belief that others are less likely to vote for a female candidate is rooted in a deep belief in persistent, and even increasing, systemic inequality in America

We asked respondents in open-ended format to tell us what they believe to be true about America that explains whether other voters will support a female candidate.

Our unique language processing technology allows us to identify the underlying narratives of America today as expressed by respondents:

  • 70% of respondents reference persistent and increasing systemic inequality in America. 

  • Of those, 22% blame Trump specifically, and 34% reference enduring sexism


Respondents who select a man for the horse race, but shift to a female candidate when given a magic wand are even more likely to believe that gender impacts electability:

  • 78% report believing it is Harder or Much Harder for a female candidate to defeat Trump

  • 62% report believing that others are much less or less likely to vote for a female candidate

  • 80% cite systemic inequality, sexism & Trump to explain why they believe that to be true

The following responses reflect the cited narrative of systemic inequality in America today:


“I'm a white male living in Oklahoma, disabled veteran worked construction all my life. Even I can clearly see that it is not an even playing field for women in politics or the workforce.” - 61 year old male from Oklahoma

“We sat here and saw a qualified candidate lose to a cheating liar, because people said America isn’t ready for a woman in office.” - 55 year old woman from Washington

“Racism and misogyny are a lot bigger problem in this country than I previously thought before Trump was elected “- 58 year old woman from Georgia

“America proved in 2016 that is far more misogynist than racist. And we all know it's racist...” 28 year old female from Iowa

“Old stereotypes still exist. old money still exists...privileged white men still dominate.”  60 year old female from Nevada

“We are in a time of open racism, sexism and prejudice.” 37 year old male from Ohio

“Trump has made it ok to be openly misogynistic and bigoted and racist.” 29 year old female from Pennsylvania

“Old white guys still hold most of the power in this country and don't like the thought of losing it.” 56 year old man from Montana

“I never realized until Trump showed the true America. There’s much more racism and chauvinism than I ever realized.” 48, year old Female from Indiana


Warren is closing the electability gap because Democratic primary voters believe she can overcome those substantial challenges and become the best candidate to defeat Trump.

While we might expect to find a different story among Warren’s supporters, the opposite proves to be true.

  • Warren’s supporters are 3% more likely than the average among Democratic primary voters to believe being a woman makes it harder to win.

  • They are also slightly more likely to cite systemic inequality, sexism and Trump to explain the electability gap.

  • But they believe that Warren can overcome the challenges of systemic gender inequality and become the Democrat’s best chance to defeat Trump.

The belief that gender makes it harder for a female candidate to beat Trump persists, but the landscape is changing with more voters believing that Warren can overcome these challenges. 

  • Above all, the belief that women are harder to elect is most closely tied to how voters perceive their fellow citizens. The gender electability gap is far less about the candidate specifically than it is about confidence in fellow Americans.

  • While the electability gap persists among Democratic primary voters, for Warren’s supporters there is a growing belief that she can overcome the challenges of systemic gender inequality and represents the best chance to defeat Trump.

  • The key challenge for female candidates is less about proving their own capability as a candidate and more about inspiring Americans to believe that they are capable of electing the candidate they most want to be president.



Avalanche provides deep and accurate insight into the values, emotions, and beliefs that drive behavior on key issues. Our technology leverages both human expertise and natural language processing to quickly and accurately interpret and analyze large volumes of qualitative data. We deliver the depth of a focus group, with the scale of polling.

Avalanche is backed by Higher Ground Labs, New Media Ventures, and Luminate Group. Since launching in 2018, Avalanche has supported strategy and messaging for leading organizations in the progressive ecosystem.

An Avalanche Listening Survey combines open and closed-ended questions to deeply understand how people relate to issues. Close-ended questions provide additional clarity and comparability with existing research, while open-ended questions provide rich and wholly novel data sets to understand the beliefs, values, and emotions through which segments of the public are currently relating to issues.  Avalanche works with best-in-class data collection partners to gather targeted representative samples of respondents.

The Civiqs Panel: The data in this report comes from a listening survey of 1,043 registered voters conducted using the Civiqs panel. Avalanche designed a Listening Survey, which Civiqs fielded to their online panel to collect responses. Raw data and weights were then provided from Civiqs to Avalanche for analysis. The Civiqs panel is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Civiqs employs a quota sampling procedure to ensure that the sample is demographically representative of the target population. Panelists are randomly recruited and not financially incentivized to complete surveys.

Data Collection Methodology: Data for this report was collected from the panel between October 1-4, 2019. More details on the Civiqs Panel and Targeted Survey methodology can be found here.

Processing Methodology: Avalanche uses a proprietary natural language processing system to analyze open-ended responses. First, important themes are identified through a combination of behavioral theory, computational techniques, and human expertise. These themes may include stories, tone, metaphor, or other elements of language. The chosen themes are then identified at scale with algorithms that ensure accuracy and rigor.

While particular elements may change from project to project, our technology consistently identifies the core aspects of how a person relates to an issue in terms of: priorities (the most salient aspects of the issue), values (the moral reasoning driving position), and emotion (the way a person feels about the issue). We customize the analysis for every project based on the insights of expert human reviewers to dynamically identify emergent themes. This allows humans to define the elements of speech that matter most, and the technology to identify those parts accurately across large datasets.

Survey Sample Detail: The total sample for this survey project is 1,043 registered voters, all of whom self-identified as intending to vote in the Democratic primary. Given the difficulty of knowing the precise composition of the electorate, both this far ahead of the election, and also given strong dynamics particular to contemporary politics, Civiqs constructed this sample from a broad composition of likely voters, and then further used self-report to verify their status for the highest possible validity.

Here we describe the demographic distribution of that sample on several key characteristics:

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Overall, we believe this sample is generally consistent with a reasonable expectation of likely primary voters at this stage in the election. As with every poll, this instrument can and should be re-fielded in the future with both expanded and longitudinal samples, as estimates of likely voter demographics solidify leading up to the election.