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CA120: Bernie voters stay angry at Dem establishment

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Ventura campaign rally two weeks before California's June 7, 2016 Democratic primary. (Photo: Joseph Sohm)

(Ed’s Note: Part 2 of a three-part series.)

Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Capitol Weekly conducted several statewide polls. Two of them, one during the primary and the other during the general election, targeted voters right after they had mailed in their ballots.

In total, more than 80,000 Californians participated in these surveys.

Now, we’ve gone back to some of those same respondents to ask them how they feel about the candidates they backed, about the issues and about their perceptions of the political climate since the election.  We also asked them this: Would they like to see their preferred 2016 candidate run again in 2020?

While these were all Sanders voters, more than one in five say now that they didn’t vote for him in the primary. This could be because their most recent vote would have been in the general election, where they were likely Clinton voters,

Last week, we offered a snapshot of the voters who supported Donald Trump.

Now, we’ll take a look those who voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in California’s 2016 Democratic primary.

The survey, which can be seen in a fully-interactive infographic, polled 851 voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary election and who in an exit poll told us they had voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In this study we look not only at his level of current support among his June 2016 voters, but we also want to know how these respondents view the aftermath of that election and the Democratic Party as a whole.

Here are some of the immediate findings:

–While these were all Sanders voters, more than one in five say now that they didn’t vote for him in the primary. This could be because their most recent vote would have been in the general election, where they were likely Clinton voters, and so their perception of their primary vote has changed. It is not uncommon for some respondents to say they voted for the winning candidate in retrospect.

–There is strong support for how Sanders has continued to work as a senator.  While the survey did not ask voters what they thought about him leaving the Democratic Party, it is clear that this issue, along with a number of other issues since last June, have not tarnished his support among his primary voters.

–Among Sanders’ primary voters, 43% of Democrats and 37% of independents believe he should run again in 2020.  But despite his unexpectedly strong performance across 2016, Sanders’ toehold in the 2020 primary electorate, should he run, is limited.

–In the Trump voter survey, the view of Republican members of Congress by registered Republicans was remarkably negative (20% approve, 70% disapprove). In Sanders’ case, however, voters who are Democrats give their party’s congressional leadership a more balanced rating, 46% approve and 41% disapprove. Among Independent backers of Sanders, the view is decidedly more negative (30% approve, 57% disapprove).

On policy, the theme is that Democrats aren’t doing enough.

–When looking at specifics, Bernie Sanders voters have negative takes on the Democratic Party establishment, with 82% saying the party is too focused on political money and the needs of contributors. Three-fourths say the Democratic Party rigged the primary election for Hillary Clinton and two-thirds say that the establishment Democratic Party figures continue to fight Bernie today.

–In looking back at the 2016 general election, Sanders’ voters by a 3-to-1 margin believe that he would have defeated Trump, and 89% of Sanders supporters disagree that Sanders’ primary election attacks on Clinton contributed to her loss to Trump in the General Election.

There is a split among Sanders supporters on the issue of the legitimacy of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails – 42% say the investigation was legitimate. But there is a significant split between Democrats and independents: Only one-third of Sanders voters supporting Democrats think the investigation was legitimate, compared with 55% of independents.

–On policy, the theme is that Democrats aren’t doing enough.  They aren’t doing enough on health care, immigration, the environment, and by the widest margin, they are failing on fixing roads and other infrastructure.

Using the online infographic, Capitol Weekly readers can go in and select different sets of voters. They can look just at voters who supported Bernie, and they can separate the Democrats from the independent voters — those who decline to state their party affiliation — who were able to cast ballots in the open Democratic primary.

Or they can click on the findings for the voters who believe Sanders’ would have won in the general election to see how that segment of the electorate responded to all the other questions.

Play with the data and let us know what you think!

Ed’s Note: In Part 3, we will look closely at the Hillary Clinton voters from the 2016 primary and general elections. We will ask some of the same questions that were posed to Sanders voters, along with issues specific to her campaign. Paul Mitchell is vice president of Political Data and the founder of the CA120 column. Political pollster Jonathan Brown is the president of Sextant Strategies. Both are regular contributors to Capitol Weekly. 


  • Micala

    The DNC is dead, Clinton, Debbie Schultz, and other establishment owned faithful, rigged the primaries, defrauded Sanders supporters, andl killed it. They better kiss Sanders ass if it ever wants to rise as a legitimate party again.

    • Mr Mojo Risin

      Amen. The DNC’s lawyers even said in court this year that they basically have the right to rig their primaries if they so choose because it’s their private organization. People have to talk to people and reject the corrupt-wing of democrats by circumventing the democratic establishment cronies & bought and owned Status-quo politicians and corporate media with their shared economic agenda.

      • Micala

        The media managed to sweep the fraud case in Florida under the rug, and pretty much ignored it. More people should know about it. Truly rigged primary. Hope they file again in a different court.

  • calwatch

    Doesn’t answer who Sanders voters chose in the general. Was this intentional?

  • parkprotector

    The DNC really will be dead if they don’t get off the “blame game”, learn from their mistakes instead of trying to ignore or justify them, and start looking toward the future and a centristic way to serve the core of Americans. I didn’t support Sanders or Clinton, and especially not Trump, because none of them gave me any confidence that they would, or could, make the serious changes needed to prepare our country and its citizens for the future. And it isn’t just their fault. A President isn’t omnipotent, even if he or she thinks they should be. Politicians on both sides of the fence seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to represent all the people, not just the parties’ political donors, and do what is best for the country as a whole, not just their own pocketbooks. Unfortunately, I don’t expect this to change when compromise and collaboration is a foreign concept in Congress. For example, the Republicans in the Senate seem to forget that the reason there are only a few votes difference between the Republicans and Democrats is because nearly half of the country doesn’t agree with the actions they are proposing. Daddy knows best serves none of us well. Throw the bums out is a clever slogan, but unless there is commitment to a feasible, attainable plan by those replacing them, only the names will change. And as long as too few people vote and only political cronies run for office, that commitment will never happen. Am I discouraged? You bet I am, especially at the state and federal level. And also fearful, as I see the damage being done to our environmental and consumer protection, standing in the world, justice system, and cultural respect by the President and the current Republican congress. 2018 will be a watershed election if we are to return any sense of balance and, dare I say, sanity to our government. The DNC and its candidates certainly aren’t perfect and need some serious reality checks, but I believe that, on the whole, the democratic principles they espouse serve the majority of our citizens much better than the Republican philosophy being played out in today’s Congress. Vote for the person and their platform, not the party, but most important, don’t let what happened before happen again…don’t assume victory or defeat…VOTE! Or the damage that will be done may take the rest of your lifetime and that of your children to repair.

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