A Qunnipiac University Swing State Poll released on June 22, 2015, turns conventional wisdom on its head, by showing that Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, might be the Democrat’s best hope for holding the White House in 2016. The survey, which polled over 1,200 voters in each of three swing states — Colorado, Iowa and Virginia — finds that voters have a much less favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton than they do of Bernie Sanders. The poll also found that Sanders was as competitive as Clinton in head to head match-ups against the top Republican candidates in both Colorado and Iowa. Clinton still had an edge over Sanders in Virginia.
For Democrats, the latest Quinnipiac Poll is one of the most frightening polls released in this election cycle. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each trail Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker in all three of the swing states tested. Clinton is competitive in Virginia, trailing Bush 42-39, Rubio 43-41, and Walker 43-40. Sanders trails the same three candidates in Virginia by wider margins, ranging from 7 to 10 percentage points.
However, in both Colorado and Iowa, Bernie Sanders performs as well against the GOP candidates as Hillary Clinton does. In a few match-ups, Sanders is stronger than Clinton. For example, in Iowa, Clinton trails Jeb Bush 42-36, while Sanders runs closer, trailing Bush just 42-38 percent. In Colorado, both candidates fare poorly in a contest against Scott Walker, but Sanders’ 44-36 deficit is marginally better than Hillary Clinton’s 47-38 disadvantage, when pitted against Walker.
Although Sanders’ and Clinton’s numbers are nearly identical in head to head contests versus the top Republicans in Colorado and Iowa, Sanders may be the stronger candidate, because he has more room to grow. Clinton’s favorable to unfavorable ratings in Iowa (33 percent favorable to 56 percent unfavorable) and Colorado (35-56) are troublesome, especially since most voters have already formed an opinion of Clinton, and it isn’t a positive one.
By contrast Sanders is still not well known by 40 percent of voters in both Iowa and Colorado. Voters who have formed an opinion of the Vermont Senator are about evenly divided. With a 32-28 favorable rating in Iowa, and a 29-31 rating in Colorado, Sanders is better liked by voters familiar with him than either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush are by voters familiar with them.
The Quinnipiac Poll is more pessimistic about the Democrats’ chances than other polls in the field right now, but it does suggest that the popular media narrative depicting Hillary Clinton as the most electable Democrat in the race needs to be reconsidered. The latest swing state poll provides evidence that Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, may represent the Democrats’ best hope for retaining the White House in 2016.