Hillary Clinton has a Bernie Sanders problem. The former presidential candidate is now giving swing-state speeches telling people to vote for Clinton; the problem is that a sizable slice of his most ardent supporters don’t want to.
A new survey of 461 Sanders delegates who attended the Democratic National Convention found that slightly more than one third (37 percent) said they now planned to vote for Clinton, whether they live in a swing state (19 percent) or a safe state (18 percent). One-sixth (17 percent) said that they were undecided.
Six percent said they would write in Sanders’ name. Six percent said they would vote for “none of the above,” which could mean not voting at all. Less than one percent said they would vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, and an even smaller fraction of one percent said they would vote for Donald Trump.
The percentages for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, were the widest ranging. In safe states like California, which Clinton is expected to easily win, 24 percent of Bernie convention delegates said they would vote for Stein. In swing states, which Clinton needs to win for an electoral college victory, 9 percent said they were planning to vote for Stein.
“The survey reflects Bernie delegates’ thoughtful consideration of their various voting options tempered by the political realities in their states,” said Donna Smith, who is also executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, a group that was one of the first to encourage Sanders to run as a Democrat. “They do seem to be highly unified in their rejection of voting for Donald Trump.”
“Many of those undecided Bernie delegates are no doubt still in the decision-making process,” she said. “We would need to drill down further to determine if there were specific reasons why one-sixth of the Bernie delegates who responded remain undecided.”
While pollsters repeatedly have been finding that many young voters are drawn to either Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Jill Stein, the survey by the Bernie Delegates Network appears to be the first of its kind specifically asking Sanders campaign loyalists how they plan to vote this fall.
“We were gathering information,” said Norman Solomon, who cofounded the Bernie Delegates Network. “The numbers were not particularly what I expected. We did the survey. Each delegate was offered one unique link that could only be used one time… Speaking personally, I think there is some delusion among the Clinton campaign that people are going to fall in line, and that’s not the case with a substantial number of Bernie delegates.”
Solomon, who’s from Northern California, said he expected a bigger split between the percentage of delegates now supporting Clinton in swing and safe states.
“I expected, and I certainly hoped for, a significant differentiation between plans to vote Hillary Clinton in swing states and plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in safe states, “ he said, then elaborating: “If I lived in a swing state, like Ohio or Florida, I would absolutely vote for Hillary Clinton in November. If I lived in California, I’d see no intention of voting for Hillary Clinton… But that differential outlook is not reflected in the numbers we got back from the survey.”
“Bernie has been campaigning for Hillary and making it clear that he supports the Clinton-Kaine ticket,” Smith said. “It may be that Bernie delegates are reflecting indecision that is more widely felt by the American electorate.”
Since late September, Sanders has been telling supporters that they must elect Clinton and beat Trump. That started at a joint event in New Hampshire where Clinton embraced Sanders’ call for free tuition at public universities and refinancing student loan rates.
“Now, during the campaign, the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton had some very strong proposals. I had a different approach,” Sanders said at the September event. “But we came together after the campaign and reached an agreement that says that every family in this country earning $125,000 or less—that is 83 percent of our population—should be able to send their kids to public colleges and universities tuition-free. And make no mistake about it: This is a revolutionary proposal for the future of our country with wide-reaching implications.”
Since that speech telling supporters to vote for Clinton, Sanders has been to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Clinton campaign has issued media alerts saying Sanders will appear in coming days in New Hampshire, Maine and Pennsylvania.
“Our job right now seems pretty clear to me… to defeat and to defeat badly the worst candidate for president in the modern history of the United States, Donald Trump,” Sanders said this week in Minneapolis. “Our job is to elect Hillary Clinton as president but to also understand that our job is not done just by electing Secretary Clinton. On the day after, we continue the movement. [As Rep.] Keith Ellison told you—Keith Ellison told you that we, working with the Clinton campaign, passed the most progressive platform, Democratic platform, in the history of our country. Our job under President Hillary Clinton is to see that that platform is implemented.”
But impassioned words like these are not quite moving Sanders supporters, Solomon said. “I’ve heard people say anecdotally, Well, let’s just see how the voting is. On the phone, people from Florida or Ohio, told me that. They’re just going to wait and see.”
The Bernie Delegate Network numbers do suggest, however, that Sanders supporters in swing states want their votes to matter—as evidenced by the finding that only 9 percent said they would vote for Stein, compared to 24 percent in safe states.
“There’s always been a wide range of Bernie delegates,” Solomon said. “The comfort level of voting for Jill Stein isn’t notably high in swing states, because you can see that twice as many people have not made up their minds. My overall supposition is that a lot of these delegates in swing states are going to wait and see how the polling looks right before the election.”
Are these Stein supporters being too principled—or unrealistic?
“It would be a broad generalization to say that all Bernie delegates choosing to vote for Jill Stein or any other candidate are doing so due to one factor alone,” Smith said. “Some Bernie delegates may be considering the political implications of a Stein vote while others may be doing so because of Green Party platform positions.”
“I agree with what Noam Chomsky has said,” Solomon said. “It’s the context. You know people don’t honor their principles when they put gas in their car if they are against climate change. We all do, if you will, make choices between options that we don’t believe are inclusive of the options we would want. But people will deal with this in different ways.”
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