VPR Poll: Half Of Sanders Supporters Say They'll Vote For Clinton

Jul 27, 2016

A new VPR poll finds that Secretary Hillary Clinton may have a tough time winning the last 30 percent of Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters to her camp.

Vermont voters overwhelmingly supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary. He garnered 86 percent of the Democratic vote, with Hillary Clinton winning just 13 percent.

The big question for Vermont Democrats is who will these voters support now that Sanders is off the ticket. VPR's July poll found that just over half, 54 percent, of those who supported Sanders indicated they would vote for Clinton this fall.

Compared to Sanders supporters elsewhere in the nation, that's fewer Vermonters moving over to her camp. 

The VPR poll also measured voters' views on the Vermont state races. With the state primaries around the corner in August, many voters are still making up their mind about how — and if— they'll cast their votes for governor and lieutenant governor.  The VPR poll finds that only two candidates for governor had high name recognition, even though 75 percent of voters polled say they are following the state races.

What would Sanders do?

Here in Vermont,  a whopping 30 percent of the Sanders supporters polled indicated they would support "someone else"—that means a candidate who is not Donald Trump, Clinton, Green Party Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.

This isn't particularly surprising, says Rich Clark, the director of the Castleton Polling Institute that conducted this poll. 

"We've seen this year have the highest level of dissatisfaction of candidates. And so the 'someone else'  actually resonates nationally pretty strongly as well," says Clark.

In VPR's July poll, Vermonters said the economy generally, along with jobs and the cost of living, are the biggest problems facing the state.
Credit Sara Simon / VPR

Some of those respondents told the pollster they plan to vote for Sanders as a write-in. That's what Edmund Tomey, 84, of Dorset plans to do.

Tomey is a huge Sanders supporter. He says he's donated more to Sanders than to any other previous presidential candidates combined.  He's not sure yet who he'll vote for in the presidential race.

"Tough question. I can't vote for Hillary, but I can't vote for Trump. So, I think I might write in Bernie," says Tomey. 

Fiona Harris, of Waltham, Vermont also told the pollster she planned to write-in Sanders' name. But when she got off the phone she told her husband about her plan. 

"And he goes, 'well, keep in mind, that when you do that, you're actually giving a vote to Donald Trump,' "says Harris. "So, I guess I'm gonna end up going for Hillary… it's so hard."

Harris says she feels like Clinton has a lot of baggage, and it might be harder for her to focus on the presidency itself with all the discussion over her email server and Bengazi.  But Harris says she does plan to vote for Clinton, even though she would vote for Sanders if she thought he could win.

That's in line with the majority of Sanders' supporters polled — 54 percent said they plan to vote for Clinton. 

"She's not ideal candidate, but she's not completely off the reservation, she's a normal. Where Trump I think would be disaster, so it's a pretty easy decision for me," says Andrew Gribbin, 25, of Montpelier. He says there's a good deal that he disagrees with the Clinton about, but he still plans to vote for her. 

Vermont's Trump supporters

A much smaller percentage of Sanders supporters who were polled — just 4 percent — say they plan to vote for Donald Trump. 

On the Republican side, 30 percent of those who say they voted for someone else in the primary now say they'll vote for Trump.

With the presidential race still more than 3 months off, many things could change as new information comes to light.

But here in Vermont, the state primary is right around the corner on August 9.

Vermont's state races

Yet of the seven candidates for governor, only two candidates had high levels of name recognition— above 70 percent.

Republican candidate Phil Scott leads the pack with 86 of those polled recognizing his name and solid favorability ratings. Democrat Matt Dunne isn't far behind with 73 percent name recognition, and half those people viewed him favorably.

Democrat Sue Minter rated the highest of all gubernatorial candidates in favorability,  but only 63 percent of those polled recognized her name.

Voters are beginning to tune in to the state races,  yet for many, they simply haven't had enough time to sort out all the candidates.

Several poll respondents who were Sanders supporters mentioned recently hearing about a gubernatorial candidate they liked, but whose name they couldn't quite remember: Peter Galbraith.

"He sounded interesting when I read about him," says Kip Fry, 56, of Rutland. Fry says he usually votes Democrat, but hasn't been following the governor's race as closely as he'd like.

Fry says he also received a mailer from Matt Dunne's campaign that piqued his interest: "he is openly following Bernie's footpath, so that attracts me, too."

When it comes the lieutenant governor's race, voter awareness of the candidates was lower — not surprisingly.

House Speaker Shap Smith and Chittenden County Senator David Zuckerman had the highest name recognition at 59 and 58 percent respectively. 

Burlington Representative Kesha Ram had substantially lower recognition at only 16 percent, but of those who knew her she ranked very favorably .

Pollster Clark says many people polled weren't aware there are state primaries in August, and that people simply aren't as focused on the state races right now.

"I think, too, we're in a year where the presidential election has taken all the oxygen out of the room," says Clark. "People just don't have the energy to go beyond that."

Clark says August is "a very awkward time for a primary." Some people are still on summer vacation and the voting date doesn't coincide with any other occasion like Town Meeting day.

Support for the VPR Poll is made possible in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.