Monmouth Poll: Dems prefer Clinton for prez, but want to see her tested

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A Monmouth University Poll released this afternoon finds that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the top choice for 2016 among Democrats and Democratic leaning voters.  However, most Democratic voters would prefer to see a contested primary campaign, including many of those who back Clinton.

When asked to name who they would like to see as the next Democrat nominee for president, nearly half (48%) of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters volunteer Hillary Clinton.  No other candidate registers in double digits.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is named by 6%, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is named by 2%, and Vice President Joe Biden is named by 2%.

The poll question asked survey participants to name a preference without providing a list of suggested candidates.  Fully 6-in-10 are able to volunteer a choice more than a year before the first official nominating contest.  Another 32% say they are undecided at this stage and 7% report that they do not plan to support any Democrat for 2016.

“When nearly half of Democratic voters volunteer the name Hillary Clinton as their choice for 2016, it’s hard to deny that she is the clear front runner,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. “At the same, time Democrats do not want to the nomination process to be a coronation.”

About 4-in-10 (43%) Democratic voters think it would be better if the party got behind Clinton early in the nominating process, but more (48%) say it would be better if she faced an active primary challenge.  Democratic men (56%) are more likely than women (42%) to prefer a contested nomination.  While most self-professed Clinton supporters (53%) would like to see the field cleared for her, a significant number (41%) would actually like to see their favored candidate face an active challenge for the nomination.

Clinton has almost universal appeal among Democratic voters – 82% have a favorable opinion of the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady.  Just 11% hold an unfavorable view of her.  Opinion of Vice President Joe Biden among his fellow Democrats is mixed – 46% have a favorable view and 32% have an unfavorable one.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo garners a 30% favorable to 22% unfavorable opinion among Democratic voters.

Other potential presidential contenders asked about in the Monmouth University Poll are familiar to no more than a third of Democratic voters.  These include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (22% favorable to 13% unfavorable), former Virginia Senator Jim Webb (11% favorable to 14% unfavorable), Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (10% favorable to 13% unfavorable), and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (9% favorable to 14% unfavorable).

Looking back to the last contested Democratic presidential nomination, few of the party faithful seem to feel regret at the outcome.  Just 28% of Democratic voters feel things would have been better if Hillary Clinton had won the 2008 nomination.  Most (59%) say things would have been about the same if she ended up as the nominee rather than Barack Obama.  Only 7% say things would have been worse.  Even among those who would like to see Clinton as the 2016 standard-bearer, 58% say things would not have been any different if she had won the nod in 2008 while 35% say things would have been better.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from December 10 to 14, 2014 with 1,008 adults in the United States.   This release is based on a sample of 386 registered voters who identify themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party.  This sample has a margin of error of + 5.0 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. Monmouth Poll: Dems prefer Clinton for prez, but want to see her tested