The Mayor Pete Buttigieg mini-boomlet has officially arrived.
Buttigieg just scored his highest Democratic primary national poll number to date at 4% of Democrats and Democratic leaning registered voters, according to Quinnipiac University. That easily beats his old high of 1% in a live interview national poll. A jump of 3 points may not seem like a lot, but, because the margin of error shrinks significantly the closer you get to 0, the move from 1% to 4% is likely statistically significant.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the Democratic field in the Quinnipiac poll at 29%, with Sen. Bernie Sanders at 19%, former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 12% and Sen. Kamala Harris in fourth at 8%.
Buttigieg’s standing lands him at fifth and tied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg is ahead of both Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, who are each at 2%. In other words, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is polling in the same area as a number of candidates who are regarded as having a legitimate chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
Obviously, the Quinnipiac poll is just one poll, but it is just the latest sign that the Buttigieg brand is rising among Democrats.
Other polling (of varying quality) has also shown that Buttigieg is on the upswing.
Buttigieg is receiving a lot of search interest on Google as well. More people have searched his name in the past two weeks than the prior 93 weeks combined. This past week alone, Buttigieg is receiving more search traffic than any candidate, except for maybe O’Rourke (depending on how you count searches for him).
Importantly, Google searches have been correlated with jumps in the polls this primary season. The candidates who got searched the most during their launch period (Harris, O’Rourke and Sanders) saw the largest boost in their polling numbers after launch. It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that a candidate getting as searched as Buttigieg is seeing his poll numbers rise.
What’s especially interesting about the search interest in Buttigieg is that it is much more organic than for other candidates. What I mean by that is candidates who receive more attention from the media are likely to receive more interest in searches. That’s not the case for Buttigieg.
About the only big media boost of attention Buttigieg has received has been the CNN town hall earlier this month. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, Buttigieg has received less newspaper coverage over the last month than 10 of his fellow current or probable competitors for the Democratic nomination.
Amazingly, despite receiving less than a quarter of the newspaper mentions of Warren over the last month, Buttigieg has gotten more Google searches than Warren during the same period.
What makes Buttigieg’s leap all the more remarkable is less than half of Democrats have even heard of him.
When you take into account Buttigieg’s lack of name recognition with his current upturn, it suggests that he has a lot of room to grow. One way we can get at this is by taking an average of recent national polls that asked about candidate favorability. When you control for each candidate’s name recognition, Buttigieg’s very favorable rating outperforms the expected baseline by more than any other candidate except Biden.
The fact that many Democrats who have an opinion of Buttigieg hold a very favorable rating of him is important. As I have pointed out previously, a candidate’s strength in the horserace primary polls is very highly correlated with how many voters hold a very favorable opinion of her or him. This means that Buttigieg could jump into the top tier of candidates when he becomes better known. That is, if he is able to convert those who currently hold no opinion of him into the very favorable column at the rate he has done so far with those who previously held no opinion of him.
Of course, there is no guarantee of that happening. When the spotlight shines on a politician as it probably will on Buttigieg in the weeks and months to come, it doesn’t always work out for the candidate.
Buttigieg still has a lot of work to do to get into that top tier.
At the very least though, Buttigieg has had a very good March.