skip to main content
Americans Maintain a Positive View of Bernie Sanders

Americans Maintain a Positive View of Bernie Sanders

Story Highlights

  • 53% view the Vermont senator favorably, 38% unfavorably
  • Nearly four in five Democrats have a positive view of Sanders
  • Ocasio-Cortez's ratings are mixed, and half of Americans don't know her

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders is still viewed favorably by a small majority of Americans (53%) as he continues to be arguably the most prominent advocate for progressive policies in the U.S.

Line graph showing Sanders’ favorability since March 2015 among all adults.

Sanders' name recognition was fairly low a month before he announced his run for president in 2015 -- 76% of Americans had no opinion of him or had never heard of him. But today, that figure is down to 9%.

In the more than three years Gallup has tracked Sanders' favorability, his favorable ratings have consistently outweighed his unfavorable ones -- only twice were they tied. Since February 2016, shortly after Sanders' victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, his positive ratings began regularly outpacing his negative ratings by double digits, and majorities of Americans have viewed him favorably since June 2016.

In Gallup's most recent poll, conducted Sept. 4-12, Sanders has a much more favorable image than either of the other major contenders in the 2016 presidential election -- Hillary Clinton (36%) and President Donald Trump (41%).

Since the election, Sanders has gone on to use his political pulpit to champion progressive causes, including calling on McDonald's and Amazon to raise their minimum wages to $15, pushing for procedural changes in the Democratic Party's nomination process, introducing a bill to break up large banks and continuing to push for "Medicare for all" healthcare legislation.

After Sanders' advocacy of progressive views on the campaign trail and in the two years since, Gallup recently found that Democrats now view socialism more favorably than they do capitalism. However, given Republicans' low positive ratings of socialism, Americans overall remain negative in their views of socialism.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, is most popular among Democrats (78%), as would be expected, but a majority of independents (54%) also view him favorably. Meanwhile, more than twice as many Republicans view him unfavorably (69%) as favorably (26%).

Sanders' ratings are mixed among whites, with nearly half viewing him favorably and half unfavorably. But, consistent with their more Democratic political orientation, nearly two in three nonwhites (64%) have a positive view of Sanders.

Majorities of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 (59%) and 35 to 54 (58%) view Sanders favorably, while his image is about mixed among Americans over the age of 55.

Sanders' Favorable Ratings, by Group
Favorable Unfavorable No opinion
% % %
National adults 53 38 9
Republicans 26 69 5
Independents 54 35 12
Democrats 78 14 7
Whites 49 46 5
Nonwhites 64 21 15
18 to 34 59 33 8
35 to 54 58 32 10
55 and older 45 47 8
Gallup, Sept. 4-12, 2018

Half of Americans Don't Know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Sanders may have been the catalyst for socialist ideas percolating into recent political campaigns -- at least 46 candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America have won primaries in federal, state and local elections this year.

Likely the most well-known such candidate is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who toppled a prominent Democrat in New York's 14th Congressional District that encompasses parts of Queens and the Bronx. The 28-year-old had been an organizer for Sanders' presidential campaign before mounting her own campaign for Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez is now known by half of Americans, with opinions about her split about evenly between favorable (24%) and unfavorable (26%) views.

Given the heavily Democratic nature of the 14th District, Ocasio-Cortez is likely on her way to a victory in November, and will join House Democrats. She is viewed much more favorably by Democrats (42%) than she is by independents (24%) and Republicans (5%). Half of Republicans, 52%, view her unfavorably.

Like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez's favorability is higher among nonwhites (31%) than whites (20%), but still, about half of each group is unfamiliar with her.

Though Ocasio-Cortez's name recognition is lowest among adults aged 18 to 34, this is one of the groups she performs best with -- she has a positive net favorable rating, with a quarter of younger adults viewing her favorably versus 13% unfavorably. Meanwhile, views of Ocasio-Cortez are mixed among 35- to 54-year-olds (26% favorable vs. 27% unfavorable) and skew negative among Americans aged 55 and older (23% favorable vs. 35% unfavorable).

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Favorable Ratings
Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of that person -- or if you have never heard of them. How about Congressional candidate from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
Favorable Unfavorable No opinion
% % %
National adults 24 26 50
Republicans 5 52 43
Independents 24 22 52
Democrats 42 9 49
Whites 20 29 50
Nonwhites 31 20 49
18 to 34 25 13 63
35 to 54 26 27 47
55 and older 23 35 40
Gallup, Sept. 4-12, 2018

Bottom Line

Bernie Sanders' positive image remains similar to what it was when his presidential campaign ended, and it's arguable that his message has taken on greater meaning for many Democrats during the Trump presidency as they search for leadership while out of power.

Sanders' age complicates his potential for running for president again -- he would turn 79 just before the 2020 election -- but nevertheless, some supporters remain hopeful he'll run again against Trump. What's more certain is that Sanders' ideas have influenced a new generation of like-minded candidates, with Ocasio-Cortez marking an important, though small, victory.

Ocasio-Cortez likely doesn't need national recognition to remain popular in her New York City congressional district, in which she is likely to go from constituent to congresswoman. While she pledges to make a big impact on House Democratic leadership, she'll have to do so with fairly low recognition among her own party's rank-and-file nationally. Still, her current 50% recognition is fairly high for a winner of a single congressional primary race. But her political career is still young, as is she, so it's too soon to say what will come for Ocasio-Cortez when (and, technically, if) she arrives on Capitol Hill.

Though candidates like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez represent a shift in how Democrats view socialism and socialist ideas, they may find it a tougher sell outside Vermont and Queens, as the majority of Americans remain negative in their views of socialism.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030