Despite Buttigieg-mania, 35 Percent of Democrats Have Never Heard of Him

Elections
Pete Buttigieg shakes hands as he campaigns with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (at right) in Los Angeles, Calif., May 9, 2019. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Everyone who’s anyone has heard of Mayor Pete, right? He had his breakout performance during a CNN townhall in March and drew strong ratings during his Fox News townhall in May. President Trump has even been talking about Pete Boot-edge-edge during rallies. At the end of April, Politico Magazine ran a profile of Lis Smith, the Democratic operative behind Buttigieg’s aggressive media strategy:

In the past several months, Buttigieg has been not just all over cable and in the newspapers, but in Our Daily Planet, an environmental morning newsletter with just over 5,000 Twitter followers; in a financial planning podcast called Pete the Planner; and on West Wing Weekly, the obsessive episode-by-episode podcast breakdown of The West Wing. He’s been a guest on BuzzFeed’s morning news show, been featured on Vice’s nightly news show and sat down with a couple of the guys from Barstool Sports.

Oversaturation? Not possible, Smith says.

“I want him on everything,” she told me.

Despite the saturation media strategy, Buttigieg remains far less well-known than many of his peers in the presidential race.

The latest Morning Consult poll, conducted from May 20 to May 26, continues to show a race dominated by Joe Biden (at 38 percent) and followed by Bernie Sanders (at 20 percent) with three candidates vying for third place: Elizabeth Warren at 9 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 7 percent, and Kamala Harris at 7 percent. While Biden and Sanders enjoy nearly universal name recognition among Democrats, 35 percent say they have “never heard of” Pete Buttigieg, while only 11 percent say they haven’t heard of Warren and 21 percent say the same of Harris. Other recent polls have shown similar results: The latest Gallup poll found that 41 percent of Democrats had “never heard of” Buttigieg.

Twitter may be a uniquely small and unrepresentative bubble, but these poll numbers are a reminder that there is a large chunk of voters who don’t regularly follow political news at all. You may be tired of the media’s fawning coverage of Mayor Pete, but a lot of Democratic voters don’t know the first thing about him. What does this mean for the primary? Perhaps Buttigieg hasn’t yet had his moment. If he can impress the much larger audiences who will tune into the Democratic debates the way he has impressed Democrats watching his cable news appearances, his support will likely continue to grow.

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