Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders has dwindled from 24 points to just 13 points over the last month. According to the latest NBC News online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey from Wednesday night through Friday, 42% of Democrats and independents who lean Democrat nationwide support Clinton, compared to 29% who support Sanders. Just five months ago, Clinton led Sanders by 45 points in the April NBC News-SurveyMonkey poll. In spite of this weakening in support, a majority of Democratic voters continue to say they expect Hillary to win the Democratic nomination for president.
Clinton’s standing has fallen among a number of key voting groups, including those over 65 (-11 points and between 45 and 64 years (-9), college graduates (-10), and both whites (-10) and blacks (-11). Both Sanders and Joe Biden, who has not officially entered the race, have made small gains in each of these groups.
The support for Sanders, a self-declared “socialist Democrat” and independent Senator from Vermont who has long railed against the Washington mainstream, can partly be explained in the top quality that Democrats are looking for in 2016: change. Nearly 3 in 10 leaned registered Democrats say they want someone who “can bring about needed change.” While approval of Barack Obama remains strong at 88% among members of his own party, a significant number of Democrats – 43% – say the country is going in the wrong direction. Still, Clinton maintains the support of about 4 in 10 voters who want a change candidate, compared to 3 in 10 who support Sanders.
Another 21% of Democratic voters say they want a candidate who is “honest and trustworthy,” somewhat of a stumbling block for the Clinton campaign, in the wake of the controversy over her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Still, Clinton has about the support of about 3 in 10 of these voters, about the same number as Sanders. Another 19% of Democratic and leaned Democratic voters want someone who “cares about people like me.” Just 5% say they want a candidate with the “right experience,” and Clinton does best among these voters. Sanders does best among Democratic voters who want someone who shares their values.
Approval for the president is weakest among Democrats who are at the lower end of the income scale, and the NBC News-SurveyMonkey poll found that jobs and the economy is the top issue for 3 in 10 Democratic voters, followed by 2 in 10 who said economic inequality. Health care was the top issue for 10%, while climate change, education, and taxes and government spending were most important to 7% of Democratic voters each.
A number of the issues that arose in the Republican debate show just how wide the differences are between the two parties:
- Among Democrat and independents who lean Democrat, 69% say they would be less likely to voter for a presidential candidate who wants to defund Planned Parenthood.
- A majority (56%) are more likely to vote for someone who supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- 57% say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who would withdraw from the multinational Iran agreement.
- And nearly 6 in 10 of Democratic voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who wants to send ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq or Syria.
Finally, about a third of Democrats who watched or followed coverage of the Republican debates said that none of the Republican candidates appeared presidential.
Hannah Hartig, Stephanie Psyllos, and Josh Clinton contributed reporting.
The NBC News Online Survey was conducted online by SurveyMonkey from September 16-18, 2015 among a national sample of 5,113 adults aged 18 and over. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 2.0 percentage points. A full description of our methodology and the survey can be found here.
The survey was produced by the Data Analytics Lab of NBC News in conjunction with Penn’s Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies with data collection and tabulation conducted by SurveyMonkey.