Poll: Bernie Sanders Most Favorable Candidate, Obama Beats Entire Field

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the most liked of any presidential candidate, according to a recent survey, but it's the sitting POTUS who is enjoying the highest ratings.

USA Today reports that one of Obama's best jokes at the White House's press correspondents' dinner referenced his surging popularity.

"In my final year, my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major."
According to an Associated Press survey, the joke is correct (at least, the part about approval ratings). Out of the people polled, 53 percent said they had a favorable opinion of President Obama, with just 44 percent with a unfavorable opinion. Those numbers are the highest the president has enjoyed in at least three years.

The president's favorability is high, but when asked how Obama is "handling the presidency" only half of respondents approved. That's still a relatively good number considering that 71 percent believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

As for the people looking to take Obama's job, Bernie Sanders had the highest favorability, with 48 percent approving and 39 percent disapproving.

The next most liked candidate is a matter of interpretation. Hillary Clinton, Sanders' opponent, had the second most positive responses (40 percent approving to 55 disapproving), but Governor John Kasich is more liked than disliked (34 to 31). But nearly as many respondents said they didn't know enough about him to answer the question.

The numbers for everyone else in the race were relatively horrible. Donald Trump with 26 percent favorable to 69 percent unfavorable, and Ted Cruz with 26 to 59.

No GOP candidate from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz has come close to beating Trumps campaign. [Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images]
No GOP candidate from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz has come close to beating Trump's campaign. [Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images]

In short, the American people are not very pleased with their potential choices for November, with Bernie Sanders being the only candidate approaching tolerable.

As dismal as the numbers appear, they are important at this time in the nominating process, especially for the DNC. The Sanders campaign has shown signs of shifting focus away from the nomination, and towards the party's platform.

Senator Bernie Sanders has what he describes as a "very narrow path" to the nomination after a string of harsh loses in the northeast. He's promised to throw out the traditional concession and continue on to the convention no matter what. That means that Democrats in all 50 states will finally have a part in the nominating process, but the Vermont senator is likely holding out for more than just making California's voters matter for once.

His candidacy has spurned a progressive movement that has a far-reaching agenda. At the convention, Bernie Sanders' supporters hope to get key items onto the Democratic platform, things like campaign finance reform or Elizabeth Warren's 21st Century Glass-Steagall law that would split up banks between depository and investment units.

To force a change, Sanders will need all the delegates and small-money contributions he can muster and present himself as a more powerful political force than the special interest groups that have made large donations to the DNC. Being the most favorable candidate adds Bernie Sanders' leverage.

According to Politico, Clinton told CNN's Jake Tapper that she's open to Bernie Sanders ideas.

"I certainly look forward to working with Sen. Sanders in the lead-up to the convention, in the lead-up to the platform that will represent the Democratic Party. It will be a progressive platform. I've run on a progressive agenda. I really welcome his ideas and his passion and commitment."
Still, it's difficult to gauge how far Clinton can move to the left. According to the Washington Post, Clinton has made substantive changes to her positions while running against Bernie Sanders. She once supported the TPP (a massive trade deal made under the Obama administration), but backed away from it in the campaign. Likewise, in 2008, Clinton opposed raising taxes on the wealthy to make up for social security shortfalls, suggesting that she'd turn responsibility over to a committee.

In general, Bernie Sanders is the most liked candidate, unfortunately for the senator, hes not the most popular candidate among Democratic primary voters. [Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
In general, Bernie Sanders is the most liked candidate, unfortunately for the senator, he's not the most popular candidate among Democratic primary voters. [Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

In this campaign, she's promised to not only protect social security, but expand benefits, even at the expense of the nation's wealthiest.

But some of Bernie Sanders policies, such as a ban on fracking and Wall Street reform, are in conflict with industries that have donated millions of dollars to Clinton's Super PACs. The platform fight promises to be a tough negotiation, one with a good chance of Sanders' people walking away in frustration.

[Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]