This is something Nate Silver and Bernie Sanders might want to look into, because it might define the 2016 presidential election.
According to most of the recent polls, Bernie Sander's lead over Donald Trump is greater than Hillary Clinton's lead. Twice as big as Clinton's lead, actually.
Which is odd, because It seems difficult to believe that somebody who is willing to vote for Donald Trump if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate would abandon Trump and vote for Bernie Sanders, Trump's polar opposite, if Sanders were the Democratic candidate.
But let's look at the numbers of the presidential polls published on March 9, 2016:
On both polls there seems to be more people not answering who would they vote for if the Democratic candidate were Hillary Clinton. In fact, in the March 9 NBC/WSJ poll a full 3% of voters did not answer the question when Hillary Clinton was the candidate and Donald Trump the Republican candidate when we compare the numbers with a scenario in which Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate and Trump the Republican nominee.
We know for a fact that Trump's voters didn't abandon him for Bernie Sanders because Trump only lost a percent point when Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee. But Sanders gained four points that Clinton didn't have (she had 51% against Trump versus 55% by Sanders). Even if we were to assume a full 1% of Trump's voters went to Bernie Sanders, that still doesn't explain the additional 3% Sanders gained.
That suggests more liberal voters are willing to actually get out of their house and vote if Bernie Sanders were the Democratic candidate. It also means fewer liberal voters are willing to vote for any candidate if Hillary Clinton won the nomination.
The trend is also visible in the March 1 CNN poll. 4% of voters didn't answer the question regarding who they would vote for if Clinton and Trump were the candidates. But only 2% didn't answer when Sanders was the Democratic candidate.
And again the same thing happens as in the March 9 poll. Trump only loses a percent point to Sanders, but Sanders gains thee points compared to Hillary Clinton.
That confirms not just that more people prefer Bernie Sanders as the Democratic candidate than Hillary Clinton, but also that more liberal voters are actually willing to vote in the presidential election if Sanders is the Democratic candidate.
I suppose some will want to blame misoginy as the reason for this trend, but it seems unlikely, as young female voters prefer to vote for Sanders according to recent polls, while women over the age of 60 are Clinton's female base.
That suggests the real reason for Sanders's lead is this: disenchanted liberal voters are more willing to vote for Bernie Sanders because he offers something truly different (universal healthcare, free universities, fight against Wall Street greed, etc), while Hillary Clinton offers an Obama 2.0 presidency (even though she denies it.) Problem is, a lot of liberal voters were very disappointed with Obama after two years in office. So now they want to support a progressive liberal, not the same thing they have been disappointed with for 6 years.
In short, what the polls suggest is this: More liberal voters are actually willing to go to the polls in November if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate. At the same time, fewer liberal voters will be willing to vote at all if Hillary Clinton is the candidate.
If more liberal voters actually show up to vote in November, then they could also elect more Democrat legislators, which would give Bernie Sanders control over both houses of Congress and, thus, a bigger chance at passing legislation such as universal healthcare and free public universities.
And if Hillary Clinton were the candidate, then she could win the election, but with fewer liberal voters actually showing up to vote, her chances of controlling both houses of Congress, would be slim at best because of gerrymandering. And without control of Congress, a Clinton administration would have the same problem that plagued Obama's administration and frustrated the entire country: gridlock in Congress and no significant legislation passed after his first two years in office.
Actually, in Clinton's case it could be worse, as Obama controlled Congress the first two years of his presidency and Clinton might not even get that.
But everything seems to indicate Bernie Sanders could control Congress.
Obviously this is based on an observation of two recent polls more than half a year before the elections. In order to confirm this speculation, we would need the following data from the next presidential polls:
1. Percent of polled voters who said they would vote for Trump, Clinton or Sanders.
2. The percent of voters who said they would not vote if Hillary Clinton were the candidate and the percent of voters who said they would not voters if Bernie Sanders were the candidate.
3. Percent of voters overall who would show up to vote if Sanders were the candidate and the percent of voters who would show up if Clinton were the candidate.
One more thing: it may also be the case that fewer conservative voters might show up to vote if Donald Trump were the candidate and more conservatives would show up to vote if somebody else were the Republican nominee (Rubio or Kasich, apparently). But regardless of that fact, Bernie Sanders still has a bigger lead over Hillary Clinton when polled against Trump. That means that no matter who the Republican candidate is, Bernie Sanders seems to have the biggest chance of not just winning the presidency, but also of controlling Congress. And if Sanders controls Congress, his chances of a successful presidency, with significant legislation passed, are also bigger than Hillary Cinton's.
That alone should be reason enough to convince Clinton supporters to switch sides and support Sanders. Because right now Clinton's strategy against Sanders is to claim he won't be able to pass his proposals in Congress. But what the poll numbers seem to suggest is the exact opposite; Sanders could control Congress. Clinton could not. And that means the one who won't be able to pass legislation is Clinton, not Sanders.
See why this might be a good subject of research for Nate Silver and Bernie Sanders?
PS: In the March 1 poll Sanders seems to "steal" Cruz's and Rubio's votes, but that doesn't happen when Trump is the candidate (in that same poll Cruz and Rubio apparently steal votes from Clinton, but not from Sanders. On the contrary; Sanders steals Cruz's and Rubio's). Thus, either the votes Sanders "steals" are from voters who don't know what Cruz and Rubio stand for and are saying the would vote for them just because of their last name, or conservative voters are not even willing to go to the polls if Hillary Clinton is the candidate because they take Clinton for granted. Still, that doesn't explain why Sanders gains one additional point from voters who didn't respond when asked to choose between Clinton and Cruz or Clinton and Rubio. That suggests once again that Sanders's lead is from voters who wouldn't vote otherwise. And therefore, by being Sanders the Democratic candidate, the Democrats could get more voters to the polls and possibly control both houses of Congress. That's something Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to achieve with the numbers she has right now.
UPDATE: I wrote this article on the evening of Saturday, March 12, 2016. The next morning, Sunday, March 13, 2016, British newspaper The Guardian published an article in which they show how a small number of Bernie Sanders's supporters would voter for Donald Trump if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee.
The Guardian also shows that some of Sanders's supporters reported they would not vote at all if Hillary Clinton were the nominee. This is consistent with the data from the polls shown in this article, in which a percent point of all voters seem to be switching between Sanders and Trump and up to 3 percent points of all voters seem to be abstaining if Hillary Clinton is the candidate. I quote from The Guardian:
Commonly expressed criticisms of Clinton were that she is a war-monger, that she is corrupt and “owned by Wall Street”, that her policies are Republican in all but name and that she is an establishment insider while Sanders and Trump are both outsiders. Views such as this are also driving some Sanders followers to vow that for them it is “Bernie or bust” – should he fail to win the nomination they will abstain entirely from the ballot.
Which is precisely what the polls show: voters who would vote for Bernie Sanders would not vote at all if Hillary Clinton turned out to be the Democratic candidate.
Again, this is something Nate Silver and Bernie Sanders might want to look into, because the more people actually showing up at the polls to vote for a Democratic candidate, the more likely it will be for the Democrats to win Congress as well. And the only Democrat right now who has that power to rally people to the polls is Sanders. All Sanders has to do is to ask people to vote Democrat for Congress so he can pass his initiatives. This is an opportunity the Democrats can't just pass. They could control the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court at the same time simply by having Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate. Should Hillary Clinton be the candidate, what we will most likely see is another four years of the same gridlock we saw with Barack Obama as soon as he lost control of Congress.
- Victor Hernandez is a political blogger and the author of Love Robots, a sci-fi novel dealing with political and social issues using real data (available on ebook here: http://amzn.to/1TEx12l and paperback here: http://amzn.to/1P6a2pa). He supports Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination and for the Presidency.