The Data Story Behind Kamala Harris

More than 5,000 respondents in 60,000 completed surveys Change Research collected over the past twelve months selected Kamala Harris as their top choice for Democratic nomination for President, with Harris also consistently ranking high as a second choice for voters.

An avalanche of theories about why the Harris’s campaign was not successful followed her exit from the race. Change Research examined our large database of voter opinion to see whether our data supports or refutes some of these assertions.

1. Harris only appealed to moderate voters – NOT supported by the Data

33% of Joe Biden’s supporters self-identified as moderates in our surveys, vs. only 17% of Kamala Harris’s supporters. Harris’s numbers are in line with Warren in terms of low moderate identification, and 2nd only to Sanders.

2. Harris’s Record on Crime and Criminal Justice Reform – NOT supported by the Data

We’ve asked thousands of respondents what their most important issue was, in an open-ended format. One prominent narrative is that Harris’s record on criminal justice reform hurt her campaign. Among those whose top issue related to Criminal Justice, Senator Harris did better or about the same as she did among voters who prioritize other issues.

While it is possible that Harris’s record hurt her with candidates who prioritize other issues, voters who take criminal justice seriously didn’t support Harris with any less fervor than other voters. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar all showed slightly less support among “criminal justice” voters whereas Joe Biden showed a large increase with “criminal justice” voters.

3. Senator Harris’s Support in States Paramount to Her Campaign Were Hurt by Biden’s Entrance into the Race — Supported by the Data

We ran a number of surveys in February 2019 through April 2019 in which Joe Biden had not yet declared. We asked respondents who their top choice was, first among the declared candidates, and then asked again who they preferred among a set of all likely candidates.

Another narrative was that Harris’ campaign was particularly hurt by the entrance of Joe Biden into the race. Joe Biden has a larger base with African American voters, potentially taking voters away from Harris. The table below shows the decrease in each candidate’s support with the addition of Joe Biden to the candidate list. While Senator Harris’s support did not drop disproportionately compared with other candidates, these states — in particular South Carolina, Alabama, and her home state of California — were expected to bulwarks for the Harris campaign.