Polling on Howard Schultz for President

Change Research
Change Research
Published in
4 min readFeb 1, 2019


There’s been much speculation about the impact of Howard Schultz running for president as an independent.

Change Research conducted a poll from January 31-February 1 of 1,338 likely 2020 general election voters to assess former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s potential independent candidacy for President in 2020.

  • Schultz is less known to the electorate than other declared and potential presidential candidates (56% have never heard of him or don’t have an opinion). Among those who have an opinion, just 4% view him favorably compared to 40% unfavorably — a 10:1 unfavorable to favorable ratio, far higher than any other candidate tested (for comparison, 52% of respondents rate President Trump unfavorably vs. 42% favorably).
  • Schultz is viewed unfavorably by Democrats (50% unfavorable — 4% favorable), Republicans (43% unfavorable — 4% favorable), and Independents (31% unfavorable — 4% favorable).

Change Research tested hypothetical matchups with and without Schultz of Trump running against different Democrats: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Bernie Sanders, with the order shown randomized.

  • Schultz takes an average of four points away from what the Democratic candidate receives in a two-way race, while taking just 1% away from Donald Trump. That means Schultz’s presence in the race makes Trump’s margins between 2 and 4 points better than they would be without him in the race.
  • In every three-way matchup except against Biden (who leads both candidates), President Trump has plurality support.
  • In every two-way matchup except against Biden (who once again has a significant lead), the Democrat narrowly leads President Trump. A Schultz candidacy could pull more from the Democratic nominee than the Republican nominee if held today.
  • While Schultz voters are disproportionately Independent, they are also more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.

After the initial ballot, respondents read brief sentences about the candidates’ bios from their campaign websites, including the following one for Schultz:

“Howard Schultz is a true American success story. After growing up in public housing in New York City, he went on to start the Starbucks coffee company. Starbucks is the largest coffee company in the world, known for treating its employees exceptionally well. He believes that the system is broken and there are extremists on both sides, and only an independent centrist can solve the problems that Republicans and Democrats refuse to fix.”

  • This has little effect on voters’ support for Schultz: when the three-way ballot was asked again, he fails to get higher than 9% against any candidate.
  • With Schultz on the ballot, Trump continues to hold a narrow lead over all candidates but Biden:

Once more, voters read brief sentences about most of the candidates in regards to their stances on issues, including the following about Schultz:

“Howard Schultz believes that everyone deserves the right to have access to quality health care, and believes there should be a fair and equitable way for unauthorized immigrants in the US to become citizens. He is concerned about the national debt and thinks the Republican tax cuts of 2017 gave a free ride to business and believes we should have been more modest with the tax cuts. He also thinks it was a tremendous mistake for President Trump to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.”

Schultz gets to as high as 10% in these matchups but lags far behind both Trump and the potential Democratic nominee. He does not come close to either Ross Perot’s 18.9% in 1992 or Teddy Roosevelt’s 27.4% in 1912, the two most successful, albeit losing, independent national campaigns since the Civil War:

  • When asked about their likelihood to vote for Schultz, without other candidates being named, 75% say that they would either definitely or probably not vote for him.
  • A plurality of respondents (45%) think that a Howard Schultz candidacy would only help re-elect Donald Trump. While Democrats (53%) are most likely to believe this, a plurality of Republicans (40%) and Independents (39%) concur.

This survey was undertaken by Change Research to determine the enthusiasm for a potential Schultz candidacy. The data indicates little appetite for an independent Schultz candidacy in 2020 exists even after voters learn more about him. It would likely only pull away votes from the eventual Democratic nominee if it has any impact at all.

Change Research surveyed 1,338 likely 2020 voters from January 31-February 1. The survey was conducted online, using Change Research’s Bias Correct Engine. Post-stratification was done on age, gender, ethnicity, and 2016 presidential vote. The margin of error as traditionally calculated is +/-2.7%.

This is one of over 100 polls Change Research will be conducting this year on the 2020 election, via 2020 Change. Most will be available to subscribers only. Please contact us for more information about 2020 Change.

Contact: Pat Reilly, patr@changeresearch.com