Monmouth Poll: Clinton support falls as still-distant Sanders gains

Hillary Clinton continues to hold a sizable lead over the Democratic field, but not quite as sizable as a few months ago.  The latest Monmouth University Poll also found that Joe Biden could take some of Clinton’s support should he choose to run.

Hillary Clinton currently has the support of 51% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters nationwide, which is down from 57% in June and 60% in April.  Bernie Sanders places a distant second at 17%, but his support has steadily grown from 12% in June and 7% in April.  Martin O’Malley garners just 1% support and Jim Webb, who threw his hat into the ring earlier this month, also earns just 1%.  Lincoln Chafee registers no support in the poll. Another 15% are undecided.

Vice President Joe Biden has not announced his intentions for 2016, but recent media reports suggest he is leaning towards a run.  He currently earns 13% support in the poll, similar to prior results.  However, the Monmouth poll finds his support should grow if he chooses to enter the fray.  An additional 12% of Democratic voters say they would be very likely to support Biden if he gets into the race and another 31% say they would be somewhat likely.  Taken together with the support he currently holds in the vote choice question, about 1-in-4 voters say they would be very likely to get behind Biden, and more than half would be at least somewhat likely.

Most of this new support would come at the expense of Hillary Clinton.  Among those who say they would be likely to vote for Biden if he runs, 68% are currently Clinton backers, 18% are currently supporting another candidate and 14% are undecided.

“Most people seem to be focusing on a Sanders surge among the liberal wing of the party.  But the bigger threat to Clinton may come from a Biden candidacy, where the two would be fighting for the same voters,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

In fact, 53% of Democratic voters say it would be better if Clinton faced an active primary challenge, compared to 36% who say it would be better if the party got behind Clinton early in the nominating process.  The number who feel the field should be cleared for Clinton has steadily declined from 43% in December and 41% in April to 36% in the current poll.

Despite the desire for a competitive primary, Clinton continues to be viewed favorably by the vast majority of Democrats.  Currently, 74% of Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton while just 17% hold an unfavorable view.  This positive +57 point net rating is down slightly from the net positive +66 rating (78% favorable to 12% unfavorable) she received in July, but is still the strongest showing of any candidate in the field.

Joe Biden earns a 67% favorable to 17% unfavorable rating among Democrats, which is slightly better than his 62% to 18% result last month.  Bernie Sanders net rating has increased from +11 in June to +24 in the current poll.  He now has a 36% favorable to 12% unfavorable rating among Democratic voters compared to 29% favorable to 18% unfavorable last month.  However, a majority continues to have no opinion of Sanders.

Fewer than 3-in-10 Democrats have an opinion of the rest of the field.  Martin O’Malley holds a 13% favorable to 14% unfavorable rating, Jim Webb has a 13% favorable to 15% unfavorable rating, and Lincoln Chafee earns a 9% favorable to 13% unfavorable rating among Democratic voters nationwide.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from July 9 to 12, 2015 with 1,001 adults in the United States.   This release is based on a voter sample of 357 registered voters who identify themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party.  This voter sample has a margin of error of + 5.2 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ. Monmouth Poll: Clinton support falls as still-distant Sanders gains