Can Sanders outpace Clinton?

The Hillary Clinton Campaign for the Democratic Nomination may be in for more of a competition than originally expected, as a second Public Policy Polling survey in New Hampshire indicated on August 25th. Bernie Sanders achieved 42% among those surveyed in the Granite State, topping Clinton’s 35% and making him the first Democratic Hopeful to lead the Clinton Campaign in the field.

Sanders’ widespread popularity among democratic voters in the state provides another sign of his increasing political momentum in the race. In addition to leading in the surveys as the preferred Democratic Candidate for 2016, Sanders also led the polls in general favorability with a 78% favorable rating among surveyed Democrats.

Sanders’ favorability rating, with a considerable lead over Clinton’s at 63%, makes him the most universally favored Democratic Candidate in the state, being apparently well-liked by all corners and extremes of the Democratic spectrum.

Among the most notable factors in Sanders’ political favorability is his apparent appeal to voters under the age of 65. Sanders’ attention to issues such as wealth inequality, student loan debt, campaign finance reform, and minimum-wage adjustment have made him particularly appealing to both younger demographics and the bulk of voters under 65, who together made up 73% of those surveyed in New Hampshire.

The results of New Hampshire’s survey, while arguably an isolated instance in a race otherwise dominated by Clinton, are among the first to challenge the assumption that Clinton has a lock on the Democratic nomination. Although Clinton still retains a more than 20-point lead on Sanders, now her closest rival in the polls, the results in New Hampshire appear to coincide with a gradual decline in support from Democrats for Clinton’s potential candidacy. Clinton’s current figure of about 47% is down considerably from previous years, in which her approval ratings reached upwards of 60%.

Although much of this decline can be explained simply by the appearance of new candidates along the way, Clinton’s decrease in Democratic support also appears alongside controversy regarding her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. What is much more notable about Clinton’s steady decline in support, however, is that Sanders’ increase in favorability in the polls is occurring precisely alongside Clinton’s gradual loss of favorability among the potential voters of her party. This change in the favorability of the two hopefuls, moreover, is thanks neither to Joe Biden nor to Martin O’Malley, third and fourth in the polls, respectively, who have both seen largely consistent numbers since 2013.

“New Hampshire is really unique in the Democratic race,” observes Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “We still find Hillary Clinton well ahead everywhere else, but it’s clear at this point that there’s a real race in the Granite State.”

What does this gradual rise in support for Sanders mean for the Clinton campaign? Although past and current polls still do not bode particularly well for the other Democratic hopefuls, recent voting trends among potential Democratic voters in New Hampshire threaten to make the Democratic Candidacy more difficult for Clinton than originally expected.

As David Horsey writes in the Los Angeles Times, “Hillary is probable, but no longer inevitable.” While Clinton remains the undisputed front-runner in the race for the Democratic Nomination, Sanders’ lead in New Hampshire’s recent surveys suggests that the race may become all the more dynamic in days to come.

-Austin Wash ’16, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor

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