But unlike his predecessors, Sanders has continued to post steady gains in national surveys. In that sense, in the category of last alternative standing, Sanders now stands alone.
In the average of public polls compiled by the political website RealClearPolitics, Clinton on January 1 of this year led Sanders by 54 percent to 31 percent, and she maintained a solid 52 percent to 43 percent lead on March 16. Sanders, though, has continued to climb since, as he’s also beat her in a series of five smaller caucuses and a primary in Wisconsin. In the site’s most recent average, the two had virtually converged, with Sanders rising to 46 percent and Clinton slipping to 47 percent. (By contrast, in this year’s Republican race, Donald Trump has maintained a roughly 10 percentage point national lead over Ted Cruz in the RealClear average, even as the field has contracted.)
Sanders has even narrowly passed Clinton in two recent national surveys, one by the Marist Institute and McClatchy newspapers, and another by The Atlantic and the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute. The PRRI / The Atlantic poll gave him an overall lead of 47 percent to 46 percent. That was within the survey’s margin of error, but the internal results suggest that the national pattern of support for Sanders and Clinton has now settled into the grooves apparent in most recent primaries outside of the South.
In the PRRI / The Atlantic poll, which measured both partisan Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, Sanders led Clinton by big margins among registered voters younger than 30 (51 percentage points), Democratic-leaning independents (29 points), liberals (16 points), voters aged 30-49 (also 16 points), and whites without a college education (12 points).
Clinton in turn held solid advantages among seniors (who favored her by 40 percentage points), African-Americans (33 points), voters aged 50-64 (23 points) and voters who self-identified as conservatives (24 points) or Democrats (11 points). Clinton led narrowly among moderates (who preferred her by five percentage points) while college-educated white voters split almost exactly evenly (47 percent for him, 46 percent for her). Overall, Sanders led her by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin among all whites.
These findings closely follow the results in recent primaries where exit polls have been conducted, particularly in states outside the South. Sanders has dominated Clinton among young voters everywhere, and has beaten her among whites in nine of the 11 states outside the South with exit polls; he has also won whites without a college degree in every non-Southern state except Ohio. And in the cumulative analysis of the 21 state exit polls conducted by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, Sanders has captured over three-fifths of independents participating in the Democratic primaries. Conversely, in the Public Opinion Strategies analysis, she has carried over three-fourths of African Americans, almost three-fourths of seniors and nearly two-thirds of self-identified Democrats.