Bernie Sanders is trying to make the case that super-delegates should overturn the will of the majority of Democratic primary voters and give the nomination to him because he polls better against Donald Trump than does Hillary Clinton.
Yes. In some cases, by a lot.
But let’s take a closer look at those polls and hear what experts say about what they really mean.
Clinton has been scrutinized and attacked as a public figure for a quarter century, but Sanders — even after running for president for a year — is a relatively new figure to voters nationally. So while a lot of voters’ minds are already made up about Clinton based on her long history in the public eye, it remains to be seen how open potential voters will be to supporting Sanders once Republicans start airing negative attacks, especially ones that note his identification as a democratic socialist.
Kerwin Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University, told PolitiFact Georgia that Sanders shows up so strongly in head-to-head polls because Trump and Clinton have such high negatives.
“General election polls don’t mean much until the conventions are over and you get to late summer or early fall,” Swint said. “A lot of voters don’t look at Sanders as a legitimate threat. It’s almost like he’s an imaginary candidate.”
In addition, early polls do not weed out “likely voters,” as polls later in the campaign do, Steven S. Smith, a Washington University political scientist and a specialist in public opinion, told PolitiFact when we previously checked a similar statement by Sanders. This could matter, given Sanders’ high rates of support among college students and younger voters, who have not yet demonstrated a long track record of voting.”
If Sanders draws disproportionately from people who are not likely to vote, which is a reasonable speculation at this point, then his support may be somewhat overstated in some comparisons,” Smith said.
And it’s worth adding that, as Meet the Press host Chuck Todd noted, Clinton can be expected to poll better against Trump after she officially secures the nomination and many former Sanders supporters come to her side.