If the presidential election were held tomorrow, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) could beat either Jeb Bush or Donald Trump, and Dr. Ben Carson could defeat Hillary Clinton, the results from the latest round of polling indicate.
Those were the shocking results that Real Clear Politics got when it combined and crunched the numbers from several national polls. The most interesting insight from the poll numbers involved Sanders; the polls seem to refute the conventional wisdom that Sanders would be unelectable and poison at the polls for Democrats.
Sanders Could Beat Republicans
According to the polls, Sanders actually seems to be capable of beating most Republicans. Here’s how he stacked up in two races:
- In four of the six polls Real Clear Politics surveyed, Sanders beat Trump. Sanders tied with Trump in a fifth poll, the PPP, and only one poll, the SurveyUSA, showed Trump beating Sanders, by four points.
- Sanders actually scored a substantial victory over Trump in three of the polls. The McClatchy/Marist Poll showed him beating Trump by 12 points, and the NBC/Wall Street Journal and CNN/ORC polls both showed the socialist beating Trump by nine points. The Quinnipiac Polls showed Sanders two points ahead of Trump. Real Clear Politics calculated that Sanders beat Trump by an average of 4.7 in the polls.
- Now here’s what’s truly interesting: Sanders also beat a more mainstream candidate, Bush, by an impressive margin in one poll, the McClatchy/Marist, and tied the former Florida governor in another. Bush did beat Sanders in two of the polls, the PPP and the CNN/Opinion Research, but only by one point in each. This would seem to indicate that Bush is no longer a serious candidate.
Carson Could Beat Hillary
The other big surprise was how well Dr. Ben Carson did. Four of the polls Real Clear Politics surveyed showed Carson would beat Clinton. Two showed he would beat her by substantial margins; Fox News showed Carson by 11 points, and Quinnipiac showed he would win by 10 points. NBC News/Wall Street Journal had Carson and Clinton tied. In only one poll, the McClatchy/Marist, Clinton won by just two points.
This shows that Hillary is not as strong a candidate as some people think. It also indicates that Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo. They want new leadership.
Interestingly enough, Clinton did very well against Trump, possibly because the public is hostile to rich people. In the McClatchy/Marist poll, Clinton actually beat Trump by 15 points. She beat the TV personality in seven of the polls surveyed and tied him in one other, the PPP. This would seem to indicate that Trump is not a serious candidate with mainstream appeal.
In an intriguing twist, the polls showed that Clinton easily beat all the other Republican candidates besides Carson, meaning that the GOP has a serious problem here; its establishment seems to have no popular appeal.
Biden Does Surprisingly Well
There was another interesting surprise in the polls. Vice President Joe Biden, who has announced he will not run, did much better than Clinton did against all the Republican candidates. Biden beat Trump by an average of 12.6 points, Bush by an average of 6.5 points and Carson by an average of 3.4 points.
That would indicate the public has a much more favorable view of Biden than either Clinton or Sanders. Of the Republicans, Carson did the best against him; he came within 3.4 points of victory in the Real Clear point spread.
Unfortunately, Real Clear did not calculate the results of a theoretical Sanders/Carson contest, which could be interesting. Both are antiestablishment figures who take strong ideological stands, and both are running as rabble rousing outsiders.
We can draw three big lessons from these poll numbers:
- The country is in an antiestablishment mood. That bodes ill for mainstream centrist figures like Bush and Clinton. It could also hurt Trump, who is viewed as a rich guy from New York and part of the establishment as well.
- The public wants change, possibly radical change. That is why they are so responsive to relative unknowns such as Carson and Sanders.
- Dissatisfaction with the economy is having a bigger impact on the election than the media would like to admit. One reason why people are willing to listen to new voices like Sanders and Carson is that they view the economic policies of both parties as failed.
If these polls are an accurate forecast, next year’s elections could produce some big surprises. One has to wonder how long establishment candidates like Bush and Clinton can survive in this political environment.