Research reveals that Sen. Sanders’s electability is based on a polling mirage. Sanders would drive swing voters to Trump and need a youth turnout miracle to win.
David Broockman or Cal Berkley and Joshua Kalla of Yale conducted a 40,000 person survey, and their data revealed that Sanders is not as strong of a general election candidate as polling suggests.
We found that nominating Sanders would drive many Americans who would otherwise vote for a moderate Democrat to vote for Trump, especially otherwise Trump-skeptical Republicans. Republicans are more likely to say they would vote for Trump if Sanders is nominated: Approximately 2 percent of Republicans choose Trump over Sanders, but desert Trump when we pit him against a more moderate Democrat like Buttigieg, Biden, or Bloomberg.
Sanders’s electability case requires this 11 percentage point turnout increase among young voters in 2020 to occur on top of any turnout increase that would otherwise occur if another Democrat were nominated.
And this enormous 11 percentage point turnout boost is only enough to make Sanders as electable as the more moderate candidates, given the other votes he loses to Trump. For him to be the most electable Democratic candidate based on his ability to inspire youth turnout, Sanders’s nomination would need to increase youth turnout by even more.
The research shows that Bernie Sanders’s general election strength is a mirage being driven by young left-leaning voters saying that they will only vote for him. The problem for Sanders is that these voters are not as reliable as older voters, and are likely being overestimated in polling.
Sen. Sanders will push swing voters to Trump, and a two-point swing to Trump would be enough to allow the President to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan again.
If there were a real movement of new voters flocking to the polls for Sanders, record turnout numbers would be happening across the board. So far, Sanders has done well in small states that are dominated by white voters, and caucuses, just like he did in 2016.
According to the research by Brockman and Kalla, Sanders would need historic levels of turnout plus an additional 11 point increase with younger voters to equal the performance of a moderate against Trump.
The polls are already showing general election tightening for Trump, and promises of voters that may never show up could be making Bernie Sanders look like a better match-up against Trump than what he really is.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association