Support among Democrats for having Barack Obama pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate is just that – support, but well short of demand. In fact it’s a somewhat polarizing issue – and perhaps increasingly so – between Obama's and Clinton's backers.
Fifty-nine percent in a CBS poll, 54 percent in a CNN poll and 53 percent in a recent Pew poll favored Obama picking Clinton for the VP slot. Her support is lower, though, in questions that are open-ended, rather than prompting with her name. In an open-end we did in an ABC/Post poll last month, many fewer, 39 percent, suggested Clinton for VP.
There's a growing difference among Obama and Clinton supporters: In the CBS data, among Democrats who supported Clinton for the presidential nomination, 76 percent favored her for vice president if Obama won (this poll was done before the final primaries). Among Obama's supporters, far fewer – 46 percent – favored Clinton for veep. Compared with April, support for Clinton for vice president was up by 9 points among her voters, but down by 7 among Obama’s.
The trends from Pew are similar. As noted, in late May it found 53 percent of Democrats favoring Clinton for VP. Compared with March, backing for the idea was up by 7 points among Clinton’s own supporters, but down by 12 among Obama’s.
Our ABC/Post poll in May also found a difference between Clinton and Obama supporters: Forty-seven percent of her voters offered her up for VP; just 32 percent of Obama’s did the same.
The differences in how these questions have been asked help us understand not just where Democrats stand, but how firmly. Our measure asked Democrats whom they’d like to see Obama nominate; as many either said it was up to him or had no opinion (40 percent) as suggested Clinton (39 percent). CBS and Pew instead asked Democrats if they'd like Obama to pick Clinton, or not; CNN asked if they’d like him to pick Clinton or someone else. Endorsing her as the choice when she alone is offered is less of a commitment than volunteering her name.
Another question from CNN gets at commitment another way: If Obama picks someone other than Clinton, should she try to have the Democratic convention override his decision? Twenty-four percent of Democrats said yes. Three-quarters nixed the idea.
One further issue – perhaps the crucial one – is whether it'd matter in the end. Classically a vice presidential nominee might help in his or her home state; beyond that it's the top of the ticket that's most apt, by far, to drive vote choices.