Why Joe Biden needed the Sanders and Obama endorsements

April 17, 2020, 2:35 PM GMT+0

On Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidential endorsement of his Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; on Tuesday, President Barack Obama, who had been careful to remain neutral during the primary campaign, added his support. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted mostly before both those events, shows why the endorsements mean so much.

Sanders voters are not fans of the presumptive nominee. Nearly as many Sanders supporters have an unfavorable opinion of Biden (50%) as have a favorable one (49%). A major concern will be whether or not this changes during the campaign.

Obama and his wife Michelle are incredibly popular with Democratic primary voters, making Tuesday’s endorsement an asset. Nine in 10 (90%) Democratic primary voters have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Barack Obama. Even more (92%) have a favorable opinion of his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was mentioned several times in Obama’s endorsement video, but did not appear.

Those who preferred Sanders for the Democratic nomination are far less enthusiastic than Democratic primary voters overall about Barack Obama, though they do like him. Fewer have “very favorable” opinions of him (53% vs 75%). And one in five (20%) are unfavorable. The former First Lady fares somewhat better with Sanders supporters than her husband (61% see her as “very favorable” and just 12% are unfavorable), which is a familiar trend.

Before the two endorsements, Sanders supporters this past weekend were not yet ready to jump on the Biden bandwagon. Although Biden holds a lead over President Donald Trump in the horse race poll among registered voters (48% vs 43%), a significant percentage of Sanders supporters suggest they might sit out the contest – or even vote for the GOP President.

About seven in 10 of those who preferred Sanders (69%) say they will vote for Biden. Another 15 percent of Sanders’ supporters choose Trump in the heat trial. One in nine (11%) say they will vote for someone else, and 2 percent say they will not vote.

Just about all of those who wanted Biden for the nomination say they will vote for him.

Support for Sanders during the campaign was highest among young Democratic voters, and also among those who described themselves as political Independents, and not as Democrats. If the former president’s endorsement doesn’t help, it may take the active participation of Sanders on the campaign trail and the adoption of some Sanders positions by Biden to make the difference – and the latter process is already under negotiation.

But there is resistance among many Sanders supporters for their candidate taking an active role in the Biden campaign. About one in four (26%) say the Vermont Senator should place conditions for taking an active role, while 18 percent believe Sanders should not help Biden at all. Two-thirds (66%) of Democratic primary voters think Sanders should help Biden win.

There is much work for Democrats to do this fall if they want to win in the general election. Democratic primary voters are nearly as likely to say the party is more divided than usual as to think it is more united. It appears from this poll that Sanders will have to take a big role in the Biden campaign to bring his supporters along.

However, one thing may help in the end: 85 percent of Sanders supporters have an unfavorable opinion of President Trump.

See the toplines and tables from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Related: What these Americans think of Barack Obama’s endorsement video for Joe Biden

Image: Getty