Bernie Supporters: Where Will They Go?
Our most recent poll in Pennsylvania showed Clinton up by 11 points which, as it happens, was very close to the final result. Given these results, let’s consider a *pun intended* berning question on the minds of Clinton and Trump campaigns alike: for whom will Sanders supporters rally next?
Conventional wisdom would suggest that, since Sanders describes himself as both a member of the Democratic party and as a socialist, his supporters will naturally choose the next-best ‘progressive’ candidate. But as with many aspects of this election, conventional wisdom does not necessarily apply.
Pennsylvania is an interesting case study. While it is not the state most representative of the Democratic party nationally (in terms of race), it is more representative than many other states according to an analysis by FiveThrityEight. Add to this the the state’s diverse socio-economic profile, and we can see why the loss of Pennsylvania was especially damaging to the Sanders campaign. The economic and values profile of its voters offered a fairly comprehensive litmus test for Sanders, which demonstrated both the marginal appeal and general weakness of the candidate.
Let’s first take a look at topline results of the question we asked Sanders supporters:
Note that this is not a particularly small sub-sample of voters; 382 respondents roughly corresponds to a 5% margin of error. Without much thought, we can see that almost one third of Sanders supporters would defect to Trump, which is frankly an astounding number.
The next result is likewise surprising, which we see in one of the crosstabs:
Looking at the age breakdown, there’s one very interesting number: of the Sanders supporters who would vote for Trump, 60% were a part of the all-important 45-64 age demographic. Now, this isn’t to say that most Sanders supporters aged 45-64 would defect to Trump, but Trump support peaks in this demographic:
So, it’s fair to say that Trump has the chance to win a sizeable chunk from this demographic of middle-aged Sanders supporters in the general election.
Looking at the gender breakdown, the results are once again surprising:
While Trump garners support from more male Sanders supporters than female, the four-point divide isn’t as significant as we would expect.
What does it all mean?
Granted, more Bernie supporters have said that they intend to vote for Clinton when the time comes than have not; then again, less than half have indicated such. While we should not expect third parties to absorb many voters, the same cannot be said of Trump. Given this data, -from a swing state, no less – he is poised to gather a hearty portion of votes from Sanders supporters.
Whether this matters will depend on the campaign to come. If, for instance, ‘establishment’ Republicans refuse to vote for Trump and either a) don’t turn out or b) defect to Clinton, then the impact of these additional populist votes will be mitigated.
One thing that we have learned is this: independent populists form a sizeable contingent of Sanders supporters. While the socialist message might have been salient among the younger demographics, the same is apparently untrue of their baby boomer counterparts. These are folks who shun any ‘establishment’ candidate, and whose support Clinton cannot take for granted come November. In Pennsylvania alone, this could mean the difference between a Clinton or Trump victory.