Two recent polls indicate that Bernie Sanders has almost as much support in the Democratic Party as Hillary Clinton. A straw poll of grassroots leaders of the Wisconsin Democratic party gave Clinton a 49% to 41% advantage leaving 10% undecided or other. A poll of registered voters in Washington state who identified themselves are Democrats gave Clinton a 45% to 36% advantage leaving 19% undecided or other. These are amazing results considering the fact that Bernie Sanders only recently started his campaign. This surprisingly strong support for Bernie Sanders within the Democratic party comes from various wings of the Democratic Party including Progressive Democrats, Union members, peace activists, universal health care activists and those opposed to unfair trade agreements such as TPP. However, these two polls were only within the Democratic Party. There is an increasingly large group of Independent voters – or voters not affiliated with either of the two major parties.
For the past year, the Gallup Poll has found that about 40% of all voters call themselves Independents. Other polling indicates that these Independent voters are equally split in leaning towards the Republican and Democratic parties. This means that 20% of all voters are Democratic Leaning Independents. The real question is whether these crucial “issue-based” voters will side with Bernie Sanders in large enough numbers to tip Democratic Primaries and Caucuses towards Bernie?
To make the math simpler, let's assume that Hillary has a 10% lead over Bernie among Democrats and let's further assume that 30% of the voters are Democrats. Ten percent of thirty percent is three percent. Bernie would need a 20% lead over Hillary among the 20% of Democratic Leaning Independents to overcome Hillary's lead within the Democratic Party (20% x 20% = 4%). In other words, Bernie would need to lead among Democratic Leaning Independent voters by a margin of 60% to 40%. To determine if this is possible or likely, we need to look at how independent voters feel about the issues that Bernie Sanders is running on.
Bernie's Top Four Campaign Issues
While Bernie is running on lots of issues from health care to education funding, four of the main issues he is advocating for are:
#1Campaign Finance Reform...Getting the money and corruption out of politics.
#2: Restoring a fair tax structure by increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and wealthy corporations.
#3Reducing Income Inequality... and improving our economy by putting Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure
#4 Regulate and/or break up the “Too Big To Fail” banks.
Independent Voters Agree with Bernie on these Four Important Issues
Independent voters can be characterized as “issue based” voters because they vote based on supporting candidates who advocate for their favorite issues rather than supporting the candidate of either major political party. These voters are also called “split ticket” voters because they often vote for both Republicans and Democratic candidates on the same ballot.
Issue #1: Campaign Finance Reform
A June 15 2013 Gallup poll found that campaign finance reform to limit the money spent on elections was supported by 82% of all Democrats and 78% of all Independent voters. Polls of independent voters have found that this is not only Bernie's top issue, it is also the top issue of many independent voters.
Issue #2 Restoring a Fair Tax Structure
According to an April 9 to 12 2015 Gallup poll, 62% of all Americans believe that Upper Income People are paying too little in federal taxes and 69% believe that Corporations are paying too little in federal taxes. A January 2015 poll found that 70% of Independent Voters favored closing corporate tax loopholes.
Issue #3 Reducing Income Inequality and Putting America Back to Work
Recent Gallup polls found that the lack of money and a poor economy was a major concern of most Americans. A May 2015 poll by the National Journal of Democratic Party leaders found that 84% felt that the economy would be a more important issue than foreign policy in the 2016 election. A January 2015 Gallup poll found that among Democrats and Democratic Leaning Independents, only 17% were satisfied with the economy and wealth distribution. Even these people likely misunderstood the question! So 83% of Democrats and Independent Leaning Democrats agree with Bernie on the issue of wealth inequality. A January 2015 poll found that 61% of Independents also favored a Infrastructure Jobs program.
Issue #4 Regulate or Break Up the “Too Big To Fail” Banks
A January 2015 poll of Independent Voters found that 60% favored breaking up “too big to fail” banks. As Bernie Sanders says almost in every speech, “Banks that are too big to fail are too big to exist.” https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf
All of the above results improperly lumped Republican Leaning Independents with Democratic Leaning Independents. A poll of only Democratic Leaning Independents would likely lead to even greater support for Bernie Sanders. It is therefore likely that at least two out of three Democratic Leaning Independents support Bernie's positions on major issues – more than enough votes to overcome Hillary's lead within the Democratic party.
Independent Voters Want an Independent President
As a final factor, Independents have long called for an Independent President not beholden to Wall Street or to the power brokers in either political party. Bernie Sanders has not only called himself an Independent, but he is the longest serving Independent to ever be elected to Congress. Many Independent voters would support Bernie because he is like them – a true Independent. This makes Independent voters Bernie's secret weapon. If Democratic Leaning Independents turn out and vote for Bernie in the 2016 Democratic Primaries and Democratic Caucuses, Bernie will be the Presidential Nominee of the Democratic Party in 2016 and he will be the next President of the United States.
David Spring M.Ed.
Washington for Bernie Sanders (dot) com