Poll: Sanders' Support Grows in Early Voting States

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Two new polls show that Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, at least in two early-voting states.

The surveys, commissioned by Bloomberg Politics, found that 24 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and primary voters in New Hampshire rank the Vermont senator as their first-choice candidate, compared to 50 percent in the Hawkeye State and 56 percent in the Granite State who say the same about Clinton. When respondents’ first and second choices for the nomination were combined, the former secretary of state leads by less than 25 percentage points in each state.

These results reflect a narrowing gap between the Democratic frontrunner and the self-avowed socialist lawmaker. In the February version of the New Hampshire poll, Sanders trailed Clinton by 48 percentage points, 56 percent-8 percent. This month, Clinton remains at 56 percent support, but Sanders has climbed significantly.

The polls also suggest that votes for Sanders could come more from voter perceptions of his own merits than from anti-Clinton sentiment. Among respondents who said that Sanders was their first-choice nominee, 83 percent in Iowa and 89 percent in New Hampshire chose the option “I support Bernie Sanders and what he stands for” as the explanation for their vote. In contrast, only 13 percent and 9 percent, respectively, picked “I do not want Hillary Clinton to get the nomination” or “I want to send a message to Hillary Clinton” to justify their choice.

Although far more respondents in both states thought that Clinton was more likely than Sanders to defeat a Republican candidate in a general election, almost equal groups thought that each candidate “cares about people like me” and “will fight for the average person.” Clinton was perceived to have greater foreign policy experience and Washington know-how than Sanders, but the Vermont senator was seen as more authentic and more likely to battle Wall Street and financial elites. 

The poll, conducted June 19-22, contacted 401 Democratic likely caucus-goers in Iowa and 400 likely primary voters in New Hampshire. In both cases, the sampling had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The RealClearPolitics average has Clinton in the lead for the Democratic nomination with 62.4 percent support, trailed by Sanders at 12.3 percent, Joe Biden at 12 percent, Jim Webb at 2.3 percent, Martin O’Malley at 2 percent, and Lincoln Chafee at 0.9 percent.  

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