Hillary Clinton heads into the first Democratic presidential debate with a slight gain in her basic popularity among all adults and a strong advantage over Bernie Sanders within the Democratic Party. But she’s weaker among independents and vastly unpopular among Republicans.
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Among all adults, 47 percent see Clinton favorably in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, vs. 49 percent unfavorably. If not an inspiring score, that’s better than her 45-53 percent in August, when her unfavorable rating was a point from its highest in ABC/Post polls since 1992.
Sanders also gets an even split overall, 35-35 percent favorable-unfavorable, with three in 10 yet to form an opinion of him. There’s a crucial distinction, however, among Democrats: They see Clinton favorably by 79-17 percent, but Sanders just by 47-24 percent. Sanders’ rating is +23 points net positive within the party, vs. Clinton’s +62 points.
In the wings, meantime, is Joe Biden, with a 45-40 percent favorability rating overall, and 72-17 percent among Democrats, rivaling Clinton in their party.
In a persistent weakness, Sanders has just a 7-point net positive rating among nonwhites, 34-27 percent, compared with Clinton’s overwhelming 74-21 percent in this group. Biden, too, lags Clinton among nonwhites, with a 56-23 percent favorability rating in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.
Clinton’s advantage among nonwhites won’t do her much good in Iowa or New Hampshire, where they accounted for 7 and 5 percent of voters, respectively, in the 2008 Democratic caucus and primary. But nonwhites accounted for 57 percent in another early primary, South Carolina’s, and a third of Democratic primary voters overall. They’re central to her prospects.
Sanders does better than Clinton among independents, an essentially even favorable-unfavorable tally, 38-35 percent, compared with Clinton’s 43-52 percent, 9 points under water. That said, in 2008, independents accounted for just 19 percent of Democratic primary voters (peaking at 44 percent in New Hampshire, an atypical state for turnout by independents in party primaries).
Clinton, further, has improved among independents from -20 points in August to -9 now. Biden’s net score among independents is similar to hers, -10.
Sanders, at the same time, has better buzz among young adults, an 18-point net positive rating among 18- to 29-year-olds, compared with Clinton’s +3 points. Biden’s rating is similar to Sanders in this group, and Biden does better than either Clinton or Sanders among seniors.
Another notable difference is the extent of Republican distaste for Clinton. Just 15 percent of Republicans see her favorably, 84 percent unfavorably – far more negative than either Biden’s 30-60 percent or Sanders’ 21-51 percent.
Clinton also suffers from more strongly negative sentiment than either Sanders or Biden. She’s seen strongly unfavorably rather than strongly favorably by a 15-point margin, 35 vs. 20 percent. Biden’s comparable numbers are 22 vs. 16 percent; and Sanders’, 16 vs. 14 percent. One reason is that 68 percent of Republicans see Clinton strongly unfavorably, while just 39 percent of Democrats see her strongly favorably.
In other groups, Clinton’s slight gain overall since August has come exclusively among women; a result is that the gender gap in her favorability rating has gone from 10 points then to 21 points now. She’s also improved since August among college graduates and middle-income Americans, but lags both Biden and Sanders in these groups.
Finally, while the difference from all adults isn’t a significant one, Clinton’s unfavorable rating again reaches a majority among registered voters, 52 percent – a challenge that Sanders and Biden both evade. The reason is that some of the groups among which Clinton is strongest – nonwhites in particular – are less apt than others to be registered.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Oct. 7-11, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa. See details on the survey’s methodology here.