New PRRI/The Atlantic Poll: Bernie Sanders Surges, Erases Hillary Clinton’s National Lead

Clinton leads Sanders among voters expressing strong partisan identity; Sanders retains advantage among weaker partisans; national public opinion poll from The Atlantic and Public Religion Research Institute online today

Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2016)— Hillary Clinton may have amassed a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates, but rank-and-file Democrats are now virtually split over which candidate should be their party’s presidential nominee. According to a newly released poll conducted for The Atlantic in partnership with the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 46% of democratic and democratic-leaning voters are for Clinton, while 47% prefer Sanders. The national survey was conducted in the days before the Wisconsin primary, and it tracks other polls in the last week that found Sanders erasing Clinton’s edge across the country. The poll also finds candidate preferences diverging sharply between Democrats with stronger and weaker attachments to the party.

On the Republican side, the pattern is notably different: 37% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they would like to see Trump become the GOP nominee while 31% say they would prefer Cruz and 23% say the same of Kasich.

The poll also reports on many of the societal issues undercutting the campaign landscape, examining how party loyalty, religion, and ethnicity play into opinions and perceptions of gender equality, immigration and race, and economic and security concerns

Analysis of the poll’s topline findings by The Atlantic’s Russell Berman is online at The Atlantic’s Politics & Policy section. A topline questionnaire, full methodology, and additional findings can be found on PRRI’s website. Key findings are highlighted below. All citations should be attributed to PRRI/The Atlantic.

Party Loyalty:

  • Among Democratic voters who express strong identity with the Democratic party, Clinton leads Sanders by a considerable margin (58% vs. 37%). Sanders retains an advantage over Clinton among Democratic voters who are weaker partisans (49% vs. 41%) and Democratic-leaning independent voters (61% vs. 32%).
  • Trump’s support is not diminished among Republican voters who express strong attachments to the party. 38% of strong Republican voters prefer Trump, a similar number express support for Cruz (35%) and one in five express a preference for Kasich. The Republican candidates are roughly tied among weak Republican voters but Trump has a sizable advantage among independent voters who lean Republican. Nearly four in ten (39%) Republican-leaning independent voters want Trump to be the nominee compared to 27% who are backing Cruz and 23% who prefer Kasich.

Does the Country Need a Political Leader Willing to Break Some Rules?

  • 45% of Americans agree that because things in the country have gone so far off track the U.S. needs a leader willing to break some rules to set things right. A slim majority (51%) disagree with this statement.
  • 55% of Americans who report being in poor financial shape agree that the U.S. needs this type of leader, while only 37% of Americans in excellent financial shape agree.
  • There are modest partisan divisions on this question: approximately half (49%) of Republicans agree with this statement compared to 41% of Democrats.
  • However, there are dramatic differences in views between Trump supporters and nearly everyone else. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of Trump supporters agree that America needs a leader who is willing to break the rules, while fewer than half of Cruz supporters (40%), Kasich supporters (43%), Clinton supporters (46%) and Sanders supporters (40%) agree.

Perceptions of Discrimination Against Women:

  • Americans generally reject the idea that discrimination against women is a thing of the past, with 68% disagreeing that discrimination against women is no longer a problem in the U.S., while about 31% agree with the statement.
  • There are, however, substantial differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats: 77% Democrats do not believe that discrimination against women is no longer a problem in the U.S., compared to 59% of Republicans.
  • Notably, supporters of Bernie Sanders (79%) are moderately more likely than Hillary Clinton supporters (70%) to say women still face discrimination in the United States.
  • 60% of Republicans say society as a whole has become too soft and feminine -- 68% of Trump supporters and 57% of Cruz supporters agreed with this statement-- while 67% of Democrats do not agree.

Concerns About Terrorism and Ban on Muslims Entering the U.S.:

  • 67% of Americans oppose banning people who are Muslim from entering the U.S., while 24% favor the policy.
  • American attitudes on banning Muslims are also sharply divided along party lines. Nearly eight in ten (78%) Democrats oppose enacting a ban that would block Muslims from entering the U.S., compared to 55% of Republicans. Close to four in ten (37%) Republicans support this proposal.

Earlier this year, The Atlantic embarked on a multi-platform expansion of its coverage of Washington politics and policy, focused on offering a distinctively sophisticated understanding of power and ideas in the U.S. capital. As part of this ambitious effort, The Atlantic is tripling its Washington reporting team and growing its events and business staffs. In March, The Atlantic published “The Obama Doctrine,” a cover story based on hours of extensive and unusually candid interviews with President Obama, in which the president explains his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world. It is the most-read piece on so far this year, with record sales on newsstands.

Survey Methodology:

The PRRI/The Atlantic Poll was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with The Atlantic. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews conducted between March 30, 2016, and April 3, 2016. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 2,033 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,220 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.3.