Although name recognition has a major impact in Presidential elections, past primary field polls show that the candidate with the highest name ID in the second half of the year prior to election year doesn’t always win the election.
Take Bill Clinton for example, who served as President from 1992-2000. Clinton, according to fivethirtyeight, was polling fourth at 8.3% between the months July and December of 1991. The article states, “Mr. Clinton had very little support in the earliest polls in 1991, but quickly began to gain it once the field consolidated. Because this primary race was so unusual, we’ve also examined the poll numbers for the second half of 1991, not just the first half of the year. By late 1991, Mr. Clinton was polling at about 8 percent, despite being known to only about 30 percent of voters — he was doing as well as any other candidate, after adjusting for name recognition.”
This may give hope to Democratic voters supporting less known candidates who are polling in the top first or second tiers such as Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobouchar, and Tulsi Gabbard, among others.
In the 2020 Democratic primary, more well known established candidates have been polling in the top tier for some time, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. These candidates are enjoying significant name ID with voters across the country, however neither candidate has broken out yet as the clear front runner.
Biden remains consistently at the top of many polls yet his fundraising dollars have been eclipsed by Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg, for his part, is a rising star in the Democratic field, polling first place in Iowa, and in the top 4 in many national polls. Buttigieg is the least known of the other three top tier candidates, however his pragmatic moderate and progressive big tent platform is attracting new voters and audiences across the nation.