Many Sanders supporters continue to say they would not vote for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, and most would like to see their candidate make an independent run
Hillary Clinton continues to hold on to her lead among Democratic voters nationally, even as tomorrow’s primary contest in California seems to be going down to the wire. Another concern for Clinton: this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll suggests she is making little progress in converting supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to her side. About half of them are still avoiding committing to Clinton in her expected general election fight against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The Democratic divide between Clinton and Sanders is also a gender gap: Sanders runs even with Clinton among men, while Clinton has a 23-point lead with women. And that gender gap becomes a gulf among Democratic voters under the age of 45. Women Democrats 18-45 favor Sanders narrowly (47% for Sanders and 43% for Clinton), while men in the same age group prefer Sanders by just about two to one.
Above the age of 45, gender differences shrink. Older men and older women both choose Clinton, although men support her by 23 points, and women by 38 points.
Sanders supporters are looking forward to victories in the two biggest primaries Tuesday. Half expect Sanders to carry New Jersey; two-thirds think he will win in California. But most of them are resigned to Clinton’s eventual nomination in Philadelphia.
That doesn’t mean they are happy about that outcome – many remain unreconciled. About six in ten hold unfavorable views of the former Secretary of State. More than a third would be unhappy if Clinton were to be the party’s nomination. Those feelings are more likely to be held by the men who favor Sanders than by the women who do. Seven in ten male Democratic primary voters who support Sanders hold unfavorable views of Clinton, and 43% of them would be “upset” if she were nominated.
Those feelings may be fueling Sanders supporters’ current unwillingness to commit to Clinton. More than half would rather see a Sanders independent run than have him support Clinton in the general election.
On that question, male and female Sanders voters differ little. But on many others, the lack of support for Clinton is much more common among men than women. Nearly a third of male Sanders supporters, compared with 19% of women Sanders voters, don’t think Sanders should help Clinton in the general election, not even if she makes concessions to him.
And when it comes to voting for Clinton in November, the so-called “Bernie Bros” are clearly not ready for Hillary. In the hypothetical matchup between Clinton and the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, less than half of them now say they will support Clinton, while one in four favor Trump. Women Sanders supporters are more willing to join with Clinton: more than two-thirds of them would vote for Clinton over Trump.
Not voting for Clinton doesn’t mean liking Trump. Fewer Sanders voters have a favorable opinion of Donald Trump than say they would vote for him in November, suggesting that their current preferences in the general election may be based more on dislike of Clinton, and hope for a Sanders victory somehow. Some of that lack of support might be overcome. Eight years ago, in the heat of the contest between Clinton and President Obama, many Clinton voters claimed they would not vote for Obama in the general election; in the end, many did not follow through on their threats.
But this year that transformation could be harder for the men who now want Sanders, as most of them appear to have little loyalty to the Democratic Party. 63% of women Democratic primary voters supporting Sanders call themselves Democrats. But only 37% of the male Democratic voters who favor Sanders do.