Bernie Sanders might be leading in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire - polls that typically limit respondents to likely Democratic primary voters. But the chances that Americans will embrace a septuagenarian "Democratic Socialist" should he somehow win the nomination remain as uncertain as ever (even as some twitter wits continue to insist that "Bernie would have won" in 2016).
But in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said "someone over 75" would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate.
But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his "political revolution", 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn't.
"We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey.
Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities.
And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year.
"As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race," McInturff said.
In a sign that the prospective candidacy of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has actually soured Americans on third-party candidates, only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump's approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%.
As at least one well-funded independent - former Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz - considers jumping into the race, only 38 percent of Americans said the two-party system is seriously broken and that the U.S. needed a third party. But that was the highest percentage on the question in a poll that dates back to 1995.
Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.
The NBC/WSJ poll of 900 adults was conducted Feb. 24-27 and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. The survey also measured 720 registered voters including primary voters from both parties with higher margins of error.
In summary, Democratic voters only know that they want a candidate who will shake things up. Meanwhile, Republicans overwhelmingly support President Trump.