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Should The Democratic Party Be More Like Clinton or Sanders?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The unexpected success of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign has exposed the growing rift between the Democratic party establishment and the party’s more progressive wing. Still, Democratic voters are more likely than voters in general to think their party should identify with its presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% of Likely Democratic Voters believe the Democratic Party should be more like Clinton, but 39% say it should be more like Sanders. Twelve percent (12%) say the party should be like neither one. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Among all voters, however, 36% think the Democratic Party should be more like Sanders, while 29% say it should be more like Clinton. But one-in-three voters (33%) say neither should be the party's role model.

Just 33% of voters say it’s at least somewhat important to their vote in the upcoming presidential election that Sanders endorses Clinton, with 19% who say it’s Very Important. Most (61%) say a Sanders endorsement is unimportant to their vote, including 41% who say it’s Not At All Important.

For most Democrats (54%), though, a Sanders endorsement is important to their vote, with 33% who say it’s Very Important. Forty-two percent (42%) don’t consider a Sanders endorsement important, with 25% who say it’s Not At All Important to how they will vote.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 9-10, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

On the Republican side, nearly half (47%) of GOP voters now believe the Republican Party should be more like Donald Trump than like House Speaker Paul Ryan. Thirty-two percent (32%) disagree and say the GOP should be more like Ryan. Among Republicans, 53% consider Ryan’s endorsing of Trump to be important to their vote, including 32% who say it’s Very Important.

Republican voters by a 29% to 16% margin think the Democratic party should be more like Sanders than Clinton, but most of these voters (54%) say the party should be like neither candidate. Among voters not affiliated with either political party, 39% think the party should be more like Sanders; 23% say it should be more like Clinton, while 35% say it should be like neither.

The younger the voter, the more likely he or she is to think the Democratic party should identify with Sanders. Those under 40 are also the most likely to say a Sanders endorsement is important to their vote.

Men and women are in general agreement that Democrats should be more like Sanders, although the margins are narrow. But again roughly one-third of voters in both groups see neither as a role model for the party.

Blacks who have been the deciding factor for Clinton in primaries and caucuses to date are far more likely than whites and other minority voters to say the Democratic party should identify with her. Black voters also place a lot more importance on a Sanders endorsement.

Our most recent monthly Hillary Meter in mid-April found that more Democratic voters than ever (91%) see Clinton as their eventual nominee. Rasmussen Reports will be updating those numbers on Friday.

Most Republicans welcomed Ted Cruz’s and John Kasich’s dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Democrats aren’t so eager for Sanders to quit.

Yet despite Sanders’ surprising success in the primaries, Democrats see Clinton as more qualified than her rival to be president. Democrats also trust Clinton more on key issues.

Many Democrats have complained that their party’s superdelegate system gives Clinton an unfair advantage over Sanders. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Democrats oppose that system of using individuals selected by the party who can support any candidate at the convention regardless of who wins their state's popular vote.

The likelihood of a brokered convention for either political party is extremely slim now, but Democrats now tend to support their party’s delegates voting for whomever they want at the party’s convention.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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To learn more about our methodology, click here.