Democratic 2016 race: One frontrunner, many unknowns

February 23, 2015, 3:52 PM UTC

A large majority of Democrats want Hillary to run in 2016, while other potential Democratic candidates are far less well-known than she is

Hillary Clinton’s lead in presidential preference among Democrats stems partly from the enormous overwhelmingly positive assessment she receives from Democrats nationally – but it is also a function of the lack of knowledge of her competition, and no groundswell of support for any of them.  

In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 78% of Democrats say they want Clinton to run for President in 2015.  Just 9% do not.   And Clinton gets an 86% favorable rating from them. 

There is no other Democrat for whom there is that level of support for a 2016 run.   That includes Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has said she is not running despite the expressed wishes of some Democrats that she do just that.  Many Democrats – in some cases more than half -- express no opinion about the candidacies of those who have been considering joining the race, and in all cases but one, more are likely to say they don’t want to see each one undertake a presidential run than say they do. 

The one exception is Vice President Joe Biden, who has run unsuccessfully for the nomination twice before.  But even for him, the Democratic public is nearly as likely to tell him “no” as to approve of another attempt.

Even Warren gets more negative answers than positive ones. 

One problem for many of the possible candidates is that a lot of Democrats simply don’t know very much about them – not even enough to say they like or dislike them.  For some, like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the ratio of favorable to unfavorable ratings from those in their own party ranges from a little better than two to one down to nearly even.

Two out of three Democrats -- or more -- have no opinion of each of these men.

More have opinions about Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and the Vice President.  And even though many might not want to see them run for President, the overall opinion of them is favorable. 

This makes the likely Democratic contest far different from the Republican race – where most candidates aren’t well-known, there is no frontrunner, and little support for many. 

There is no question there is a Democratic frontrunner, nor any doubt about who she is.  In this week’s poll, 71% of registered voters who describe themselves as Democrats now say they want her to be the Democratic nominee.  Only one other person, Vice President Biden, even reaches double digits.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.