Clinton the top second choice for both Biden and Sanders supporters

September 17, 2015, 2:25 PM GMT+0

Hillary Clinton does well among supporters of both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders when it comes to second preferences

The Democratic contest for the party’s presidential nomination seems to have changed little in recent weeks. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support remains below 50%, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden running in second and third. But registered voters who identify as Democrats in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll haven’t really deserted Clinton: while as many choose Sanders and Biden together as support Clinton, should Biden not enter the race, or should Sanders drop out, Clinton would gain the most.

As talk of a possible Biden entry rose last month, Biden won support from many Democrats. But he hasn’t improved his position in the last two weeks, even though he is arguably the best liked of the Democrats among the public at large: 48% of all adults have a favorable view of Biden, with 37% unfavorable. Fewer have opinions of Sanders, though Americans are narrowly positive towards him (39% favorable, 33% not favorable). Since her re-entry into the political arena, Clinton still struggles with negative assessments from the public overall. In this week’s polls, as before, 42% of adults are favorable towards Clinton, while 52% are not.

But among Democrats, even those Democrats who favor her major opponents, Clinton has support. If Biden doesn’t enter the race, 60% of his current supporters say they would move to support Clinton. While just 45% of Sanders supporters say Clinton would be their second choice, that is still more Sanders voters as would favor Biden in that circumstance.

As for the other three announced Democratic candidates, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb, each registers at only 1% in this poll. But 5% would choose O’Malley as their second choice, more than select Chafee and Webb combined. O’Malley second choice support comes from both Clinton and Sanders voters.

Sanders’ voters are the most enthusiastic of the supporters of the three Democratic leaders. Eight in ten Sanders supporters say they would be enthusiastic if their candidate won the nomination, compared with less than seven in ten supporters of Biden and Clinton.

But when it comes right down to it, most Democrats still believe Hillary Clinton will wind up being their party’s nominee. And 85% of Democrats believe Clinton could win the November election if she were. Even a small majority of Republicans agree. Even more Republicans think Biden could win the fall election if he were nominated.

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.