Election 2016

Bernie Would Do Better Than Hillary in 2016 Race Against Trump, National Poll Finds

But she would do better against other Republicans.

Photo Credit: Image by Shutterstock, Copyright (c) Crush Rush

Another nationwide poll this week found Bernie Sanders would not only beat Donald Trump in the race for president, he would do significantly better than Hillary Clinton if he were the Democratic nominee facing Trump.

“Trump trails either Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and 50 percent of American voters say they would be embarrassed to have Trump as president,” said the Quinnipiac University National poll. “American voters back Clinton over Trump 47-40 percent… Sanders tops Trump 51-38 percent.”

But that finding, based on interviews with 1,140 voters last week, also found that Sanders would lose by a few percentage points—just outside the poll’s margin of error—if he faced Sen. Marco Rubio for president, and that he would be tied with Sen. Ted Cruz if the race were held last week.

These hypotheticals don’t mean that much when looking toward voting in November 2016. But they are important signs about momentum and public perceptions going into the first nominating contests early next year, which begin in Iowa in less than six weeks. More than anything, the poll shows that the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of the Sanders campaign is doing a disservice to Democratic voters.

While many Democratic voters overwhelmingly say Clinton has the experience to be president, both she and Trump have the highest negative ratings of the entire 2016 field. Trump’s are worse: 59 percent of all voters polled give him an unfavorable rating overall, whereas that figure is 51 percent for Clinton and 31 percent for Sanders.

The public’s negative perceptions of Clinton and Trump are persistent and comparable, Quinnipiac found, even though two-thirds said she has the experience to be president and about the same percentage said Trump does not. Here’s the breakdown:

Clinton and Trump are close on several key qualities. American voters say:

  • 59 - 35 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy;
  • 58 - 40 percent that she has strong leadership qualities;
  • 50 - 46 percent that she does not care about their needs and problems;
  • 55 - 42 percent that she does not share their values.

Looking at Trump, voters say:

  • 58 - 36 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy;
  • 58 - 39 percent that he has strong leadership qualities;
  • 57 - 38 percent that he does not care about their needs and problems;
  • 61 - 34 percent that he does not share their values.

Curiously, 59 percent of all voters said that Hillary Clinton has a good chance of defeating the Republican nominee next fall. But if Quinnipiac’s survey is correct, if that GOP nominee is Trump then Sanders would be the stronger Democratic candidate.

“Half of American voters say they’d be embarrassed to have Donald Trump as their Commander in Chief and most Americans think he doesn’t have a good chance in November, but there he is still at the top of the Republican heap,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Hillary Clinton tops him. Sen. Bernie Sanders hammers him and Sen. Ted Cruz is snapping at his heels. Can a candidate that half the American electorate thinks is an embarrassment win in November?”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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