Bernie Sanders a long shot even among liberals

May 08, 2015, 2:24 PM GMT+0

Bernie Sanders faces a struggle to win the Democratic nomination as Hillary is much more popular than him even among liberal Democrats

Last week most Democrats were satisfied having only former Senator Hillary Clinton as their only presidential candidate.  The entry of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to have changed very much in Democrats’ perception of the race – Democratic satisfaction hasn’t risen much now that there are two options.

Clinton retains an enormous lead over her rivals among registered voters who call themselves Democrats.  That continues to be true in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.  Sanders runs a distant second, though he has improved from a week ago.  Vice President Joe Biden, who has not said whether he is running, is third, followed by two other Democrats who have indicated they would make the race, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.  When Clinton is paired only against Sanders, she holds a more than three to one lead with Democrats. 

Sanders is still relatively unknown.  More than four in ten Americans (and nearly as many Democratic voters) have no opinion of the long-serving Vermont Senator.  Democrats with an opinion of Sanders have increased by ten percentage points in the last week, though positive opinions rose only three points.  Among the overall public, negative opinions of Sanders slightly outweigh positive ones.  

Sanders faces more than a lack of name recognition.  Even Democrats hold mixed images of his ideology.  Many Democrats see Sanders as independent, others say he is progressive, while others call him a socialist. 

Among the entire public, those who don’t like Sanders overwhelmingly see him as a socialist, or as someone even more to the left.   Some of those who like Sanders also say he is socialist.  But for more of the public with favorable opinions, there are other Sanders virtues, like independence and intelligence. 

Being labeled a socialist can be a good thing for some, but a bad thing for others.   Overall, Americans say they would never consider voting for a socialist; more Democrats could consider this.  However, even among Democrats, just a third in this week’s poll would consider voting for a socialist.  Nearly a quarter of Democrats say they would not even consider voting for a socialist. 

Socialism and Sanders fare best with liberals.  By three to one, liberals would consider voting for a socialist.  More than half of liberal Democrats have a favorable opinion of Sanders, though even more like Hillary Clinton.  And Sanders fares better with Democratic liberals than he does with all Democrats, though Clinton still leads with those liberals among all potential candidates as well as in the head to head match up with Sanders. 

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.