Democrats like both Biden and Sanders, but some think they are old

May 10, 2019, 1:00 PM GMT+0

52% of Republicans said Joe Biden is “too liberal,” though more, 73%, say Bernie Sanders is “too liberal.”

The two leading Democratic candidates for president have one thing in common: potential voters think they’re old. For some Democratic primary voters, it’s the very first thing they think of when it comes to both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

In an open question in last week’s Economist/YouGov poll, 7% of Democratic primary voters said “old” was the first thing that came to mind when they thought of Biden. This week, 10% say it’s the first thing they think of when they hear Sanders’ name. Biden leads the field of Democrats in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll with 52% saying they would consider him. Sanders ranks second with about 40% saying they’d cast a vote for the Vermont Senator.

The “old” characterization for Biden was balanced by a number of Democratic voters who used the word “experienced” for the former Vice President. Fewer say that about Sanders. Instead, those Democratic voters mention his ideology, using words like “progressive” and “socialist.”

When asked about Sanders’ ideology, two-thirds of Democrats describe him as “liberal.” So do nearly three in four Republicans (62% of Republicans call him “very liberal”). Democrats were divided on whether Biden is a liberal or a moderate, while six in 10 Republicans called him a “liberal.” 52% of Republicans said he was “too liberal,” though even more, 73%, say Sanders is “too liberal.”

That ideological positioning of the two candidates may be the reason that Biden is seen by Democrats in this poll as more “electable” than Sanders. Last week, when the poll focused on Biden, about two-thirds of respondents said he was at least somewhat likely to win the Democratic nomination. This week, when the poll focused on Sanders, just 45% of Democrats said Sanders is likely to win.

When it comes to general election viability, two-thirds of Democrats believe it is likely Biden can win the general election, while nearly as many say Sanders is as likely to lose as to prevail in November.

Most Republicans say neither Biden nor Sanders is likely to win the general election, though they also aren’t sure about President Donald Trump’s chances. As many Republicans believe Trump is likely to lose as to say that he is not likely to be defeated in 2020.

Democrats like many things about Sanders. Two-thirds say he has the right temperament for the job, 72% say he is honest and trustworthy, three in four say he is qualified to be President, and 79% see Sanders as a strong leader. By 56% to 19%, Democrats are confident in Sanders’ ability to deal wisely with an international crisis. But he runs behind Biden on many of these questions.

Biden remains at the top of the pack in the consideration of Democratic voters, while Sanders is facing challenges from several other contenders. Just about the same percentage of Democratic primary voters say they are now considering Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or California Senator Kamala Harris as say they are considering Sanders. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is not far behind. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are clearly in a separate tier. No other Democratic candidate is being considered by more than 12% of potential voters.

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One in four Democratic voters have only one choice today: Biden. Sanders is the only other candidate in double digits among voters who have already decided. Looking at those who are considering several candidates, the other candidates come closer to Sanders. But Sanders does have an advantage over the rest of the field (apart from Biden) among those who say they are committed to one candidate.

The latest likely entry into the presidential race, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, is already known by a majority of Democrats, and 35% give him a favorable rating. But among voters that know de Blasio, 17% view him unfavorably, which is not a good ratio. By comparison, the ratio of favorable to unfavorable ratings among Democrats is nearly three to one for Sanders, three to one or better for O’Rourke and Booker, and better than four to one for Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, and Warren.

Read the full toplines and tables results here

Photo: Getty