Clinton's national support falls below 50% for the first time

April 13, 2016, 6:38 PM GMT+0

Bernie Sanders has narrowed Hillary Clinton's national lead among Democratic primary voters to 8 points

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has won eight of the last nine contests for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but he continues to trail former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates, the total vote count and the preference of Democratic primary voters in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. However, he has reduced Clinton’s margin to single digits, and this week’s poll marks one of the best showings ever for Sanders in the Economist/YouGov polls.

Sanders leads with white Democratic primary voters, liberals, and those under the age of 45. Clinton leads Sanders by 21 points among those Democratic voters in the age group that both candidates are in, the 65 and older group. There is a sizable gender gap in this poll:  Sanders has a six-point lead among male Democratic voters, while Clinton holds a surprisingly large 17-point lead with women Democratic voters.

Both candidates’ supporters are equally likely to describe their support as “strong,” but there are differences in how each group would react if their preferred candidate did not become the party standard bearer. Just 15% of Clinton supporters say they would be “upset” if Sanders won the nomination, while more than twice as many Sanders supporters (33%) say they would be “upset” if Clinton were the party’s nominee.

From Sanders to Trump

That more intense commitment among Sanders supporters also extends to their current expression of a fall vote intention. More Sanders supporters than Clinton supporters claim they will not vote Democratic if their candidate is not the nominee (historically, opinions expressed during an intense primary battle frequently underrepresent vote for the eventual fall nominee, so those results should not be read as predictions). However, Sanders supporters today offer more support to Clinton than Republican Donald Trump’s current voters offer to a Republican Party nominee not named Trump.  Only about half of Trump’s current supporters say they would vote Republican in that circumstance.

Sanders supporters are looking ahead to a political revolution. 59% of Americans overall believe that the country “needs a political revolution,” and that belief is most apparent among the supporters of the two insurgent candidates – Sanders on the Democratic side and Donald Trump among Republicans. But that opinion is not just limited to those two candidates’ voters.  Even 40% of those Democratic voters who want Clinton to be the nominee agree the country needs a political revolution. 

A majority of Sanders supporters see the country as on the wrong track, another contrast with Clinton supporters. Sanders supporters, however, are nowhere near as negative about the state of the country as those Republican voters who favor Donald Trump.

Who's qualified to be president?

Clinton is still viewed as the likely nominee: nearly all of her supporters and 40% of Sanders’ think she will win the nomination.  And on many “presidential” characteristics, she remains far ahead of Sanders and the three remaining Republican candidates. She is the only remaining candidate seen by a majority of the public as understanding the problems a president must deal with. Two-thirds say she does, including 51% of Republicans (not much lower than the percentage of Republican voters saying this about the three Republicans).  A majority of Americans think she is ready to serve as Commander-in-Chief (Sanders scores second highest on this trait, though only 38% think he is ready to be Commander-in-Chief). 

Clinton is also the only remaining candidate a majority views as being qualified to serve as President Sanders is second on this as well.

But Sanders continues to have strengths:  54% of the public overall (and even a plurality of Republican primary voters) say he is honest and trustworthy.  Less than a third of Americans think this about Clinton.  The difference between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters on this question is particularly striking.  62% of Clinton supporters say Sanders is honest and trustworthy; only 20% of Sanders supporters say that about Clinton. 

Additionally, Clinton and Sanders score well on being strong leaders (57% and 52% "strong", respectively), but so does Donald Trump (57%).  All three of those candidates are seen as strong leaders by more Americans than rate President Obama that way (47%).

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here. 

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