Thursday, March 3, 2016

Clinton's Democratic opposition twice as hard as Sanders'

General election polls have for quite some time suggested that Hillary Clinton would be an extraordinarily weak candidate in the general election, if nominated. A few observations:
  • She can only beat Trump by an average of 3.4%, and lost to him just two weeks ago.
  • She has not been able to beat any other Republican in over a month.
  • She underperforms compared to Sanders (who beats all Republicans) by an average 8%.
To the extent that we take this data seriously, a common reading of the numbers is that Sanders would win more Republican votes than Clinton can. This has some support in the polls, where Sanders wins on average about 3.5% more support among the GOP than Clinton. But the polls also suggest that it's not just about how many votes Sanders would win - it's also about how many votes Clinton would lose.

Interestingly enough, CNN didn't mention this finding in its summary of its latest poll - but buried in the crosstabs, I found some significant numbers:


Of the Democrats who say that they wouldn't support Clinton, 60% say that they definitely wouldn't, versus about 40% who only say that they probably wouldn't. The opposition to Sanders is much softer: only a quarter of those voters say that they definitely wouldn't vote for him. So while crossover appeal may account for some fraction of Sanders' advantage in the general election, it also appears that Clinton suffers from a significant amount of hardened opposition among Democrats who will never vote for her.


NOTE: This post has been updated to account for an initial error in calculting overall opposition. Thanks to @DavidAParker9 for pointing it out, and thanks to sleep deprivation for the mistake.