Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has a dedicated fan base that remains quite vocal despite the fact that he did not become the Democratic presidential candidate for the 2016 election. Sanders has announced that he is running again for 2020, but some number-crunching suggests that he’s not starting off this campaign in as positive a position as last time.
CNN details that their newest poll gives Sanders a 46 percent favorability rating. That isn’t necessarily bad, but the same poll put Bernie at a 45 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters. That puts him at a net plus one, and the outlet notes that on average, his net favorability has been around negative one point in recent polls.
That is a significant shift compared to where Sanders was as he wrapped his 2016 run. At that time, as things remained contentious between Bernie and Hillary supporters, the Vermont senator sat at a 59 percent favorable rating and net favorability rating of plus 23 points.
Sanders’ net favorability has been slowly declining since the 2016 election and appears to be shifting more rapidly lately. As of last December, Bernie was still in the 13 to 15 positive point range. CNN analyst Harry Enten noted via Twitter that he went through the polling data of the past 3.5 years to see how Sanders’ net favorability numbers have looked over time, and he found some interesting results.
Enten says that these current numbers are the worst Sanders has had in at least 3.5 years. He points out that this is looking at the general electorate of all registered voters, and that it’s not just one poll showing this. Enten adds that there hasn’t been a great deal of relevant fresh polling since Sanders announced his candidacy for 2020, but he indicates that the trend is quite clear.
Throughout the 2016 campaign and its aftermath, it was a common refrain among Bernie’s supporters to say that polling showed he might have been the most electable candidate against Trump. That mantra has been bandied about as this 2020 campaign begins to heat up, but Enten points out on Twitter that this is not necessarily accurate to claim given these latest numbers.
My piece is out tomorrow, but I went back in the CNN polling archive. Among all registered voters, Sanders net favorability is at its worst in at least 3.5 years. And it's not the only poll to show it. His net fav is basically even among the general electorate.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) March 19, 2019
Polling on the Democratic side still shows quite positive numbers for Sanders at this point. As FiveThirtyEight details, Sanders and likely candidate Joe Biden have been consistently ranking at the top of polling on the Democratic side at this early stage. How will that shift as the field solidifies and the campaign gets more real? People will be watching these numbers closely.
CNN isn’t the only outlet showing a downward trend in numbers for Sanders. Real Clear Politics has a page tracking polls that pit current President Donald Trump against Bernie Sanders in a presidential election, and it’s clear that the latest polls show a significant shift downward for Bernie. The polls tracked over the past year used to consistently show Sanders with a 10-point lead, or more, over Trump. However, the last two Emerson polls listed put him at just two points over Trump.
It’s obvious that Sen. Bernie Sanders remains a strong contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and it’ll take months before the dust starts to settle on this rapidly evolving and growing field of candidates. However, many will be keeping an eye on these shifting net favorability ratings as they try to predict which candidate can best oppose Trump.