Despite not being an announced candidate, Joe Biden is quickly catching up on Bernie Sanders as Hillary Clinton's support continues to drop

The possibility that Vice President Joe Biden might enter the 2016 Democratic nomination contest has boosted his support among Democrats.  At the same time, continued discussion of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State has taken a toll.  While changes in the Economist/YouGov Poll have been incremental at best from week to week, Clinton’s support from Democrats for their party’s nomination is at its lowest level since criticism of her use of private emails exploded earlier this summer. 

In this week’s poll, 44% of registered voters who call themselves Democrats choose Clinton as their preferred nominee.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders remains in second place, but Biden is clearly catching up, gaining seven points in the last two weeks.  The as-yet-unannounced candidate is only four points behind Sanders.  The other announced candidates. Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley, are all in low single digits.

The Economist/YouGov Poll sample is twice the size of usual polls, allowing deeper analysis.  Clinton and Sanders are even among those under 30 and nearly even with liberals.  In fact, among all white Democrats Clinton is only two points ahead of Sanders.  Her much larger lead overall is due to the continued strong support from Blacks and Hispanics.  

Sanders has one clear advantage: his supporters are far more enthusiastic about his candidacy than either Clinton’s or Biden’s are, underscoring the large crowds that have come out for many of his live events.  85% of Sanders supporters say they would be enthusiastic if he won the nomination.  Fewer say this about Clinton or Biden. 

Sanders also does slightly better against Biden when questioning is limited to those Democrats who say they will participate in a Democratic primary or caucus next year.  But he still runs 18 points behind Clinton. 

There is a Sanders weakness: comparatively few Democrats say he is their second choice for the nomination.  In fact he is the only one of the top three Democrats less than half of voters list as one of their top two choices.

More than six in ten Democrats continue to believe Clinton will win the nomination.  And she is still seen as the most electable Democrat in the general election.  Just 14% of Democrats expect Biden will win the nomination, and only 12% think Sanders will.  And when asked whether, if nominated, each of the three top Democrats can possibly win the general election, most think Clinton and Biden can, but less than half are sure about Sanders.

Even Republicans see Clinton and Biden as possible 2016 general election winners.  55% of Republicans think Biden can win, while 53% think Clinton can.  Those Republican figures for the two Democrats are higher than the electability percentages Republicans give to all but four of the seventeen candidates of their own party currently running for the Presidency.

Clinton’s email issues continue to haunt her with the public overall and with Democrats.  There has been little change from two weeks ago is assessment of the situation; however, just one in five Democrats regard her as more honest and trustworthy than most people in public life, and one in four 

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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