Though his opponent may effectively sew up the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders has shown no signs of retreating from his pledge to continue his spirited campaign beyond the primary season and into the July party convention. Sanders' dogged determination has found little support among Democratic Party leaders, as vocalized by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid last week when he offered this dispiriting advice to Sanders: "Sometimes you just have to give up."
But even as prominent Democrats admonish the Vermont senator, who only recently joined their party, U.S. adults who identify as Democrats or lean toward that party continue to have a broadly positive view of Sanders. Plus, he continues to be significantly more popular than Hillary Clinton. Sanders' current net favorable rating among Democrats (+52) outpaces Clinton's (+39) by 13 points. This is significantly different from early May, when Clinton's and Sanders' images among Democrats came close to parity.
These latest results come from Gallup Daily tracking for the seven days spanning May 29-June 4, and show Sanders holding 70% favorable, 18% unfavorable ratings among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Clinton is seen favorably by 67% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, while 28% see her unfavorably. Interestingly, even at this point in the campaign, 12% of Democrats don't have an opinion of Sanders, compared with 5% who don't have an opinion of Clinton. Clinton's higher familiarity, in turn, appears to be translated mostly into the unfavorable column.
Clinton and Sanders are competing fiercely for the delegate-rich state of California, which will vote on Tuesday, along with five other states. But even if Sanders can pull off an electoral upset in the Golden State, the impact of such a victory will be fleeting. Given her weekend win in Puerto Rico, Clinton will almost certainly win enough delegates Tuesday night -- with or without a victory in California -- to secure the nomination.
This is the "reality" Reid pointed to when he publicly implored Sanders to concede and exit from the race. But Reid is probably thinking about more than a simple delegate count. As presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump turns his attention to the general election, the Democrats are still stuck in a nominating contest that risks dividing the party, even as Clinton tries to concentrate on the general election. Clinton currently finds herself conducting what pundits have referred to as a "two-front war," one against Sanders and the other against Trump.
For his part, Sanders continues to argue that he is the better choice to face Trump in the fall. Sanders' net favorable rating among the American public is now at +9, better than either Clinton's (-17) or Trump's (-31). However, it is likely that if Sanders were to become the Democratic nominee and in turn face much more intense media scrutiny and attacks from Trump and other Republicans, his favorable rating would become less positive.
|Gallup, May 29-June 4, 2016|
Though Sanders is generally well-liked by Democrats, he is most popular among adults who initially say they are independent in terms of party affiliation but skew Democratic when asked which party they lean toward. Among this group of "Democratic leaners," Sanders enjoys a net favorable of +59, whereas his net favorable among outright Democrats is a slightly lower +50. The same dynamic -- but in reverse -- is evident in Clinton's net favorable ratings, with her net favorable among self-identified Democrats at +53 and her net favorable among independents who lean Democratic at +11.
|Gallup, May 29-June 4, 2016|
It is worth noting again that Sanders' positive image is extraordinarily skewed toward young people, despite his being the oldest candidate in the race (at age 74). Sanders' net favorable image is +73 among Democrats aged 18 to 29, compared with a much lower +29 among Democrats aged 65 and older. Clinton holds a -2 rating among Democrats aged 18 to 29 but has a net favorable of +55 among Democrats in the oldest age category.
Should Clinton lock up the nomination Tuesday night, she will hope to quickly absorb Sanders' supporters and unify the party. That raises the question of just what those Democrats who like Sanders think about her. Interestingly, Clinton's image among this group is not much different than it is among Democrats overall. Democrats who like Sanders have a 65% favorable and 32% unfavorable opinion of Clinton. The small group of Democrats who are unfavorable toward Sanders have a 76% favorable, 23% unfavorable opinion. But these are not stark differences and certainly suggest that Democrats who are negative toward Clinton may base their views on more than just their liking of Sanders.