The Democrats: Sanders moving up

July 09, 2015, 3:54 PM UTC

Bernie Sanders has improved his standing in the Democratic field, but the majority of Democrats still prefer Hillary Clinton

Republicans and Democrats are generally satisfied with their options in the 2016 presidential contest – in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, just one in four Democrats and even fewer Republicans wish there were other choices. 

With former Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s announcement last week, the Democrats now have five announced candidates (with Vice President Joe Biden as of now still on the sidelines).  On the GOP side, there are more than a dozen announced candidates, with another few likely to enter the contest in the next few weeks.   Republican support is scattered among a number of those candidates, with front-runners barely in double digits.  The smaller number of Democratic contenders produces a clear front-runner with majority support: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  However, this week, her closest challenger is closer than ever.  One in four Democrats now favor Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Clinton’s support has dropped in the last few weeks as more candidates have entered the race, and as criticisms of her handling of private emails while she was Secretary of State have continued.  In last week’s poll, opinion of her handling of the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya matched her all-time low.

But Sanders is the only Clinton opponent who appears to have benefited.  His crowds have grown, along with his Democratic support.  When Democrats who are registered to vote are asked to choose only between Sanders and Clinton, Clinton holds a 35-point lead. 

Sanders is still much less well-known about Democrats than Clinton is. His unfavorable ratings are about the same as hers, and far more Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton than have an favorable one of Sanders.

Sanders appears to be stronger with those who call themselves independents than he is with Democrats. He runs even with Clinton among independents who are registered to vote (although many of them may not participate in Democratic nominating contests), whether the question includes all the potential candidates or is just limited to Sanders and Clinton.  And independents are less likely to have an unfavorable view of Sanders than they are to have an unfavorable view of Clinton.

Meanwhile, Webb, the newest Democratic entrant, remains an unknown quantity to many Democrats. Half don’t have any opinion at all about him, while those that do are closely divided on whether their opinion of Webb is favorable or not favorable.  In addition, those who have an opinion are nearly twice as likely to say Webb is not qualified to serve as President as to say he is. 

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.