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Who is more electable, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

Updated on March 1, 2016

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Who would make a better Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

As the 2016 US primaries take place to decide who the Republican and Democratic nominees will be for the 2016 US presidential election, many are debating on who is the more electable candidate for each party. It seems obvious to most that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. However, it's not so clear who will win the Democratic nomination. The odds on favorite appears to be Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders, though the primaries can go either way.

The question of electability seems to be brought up often by both Hillary-supporters and Bernie-supporters. Both sides have legit arguments as to why their preferred candidate has a better chance to win in the general election and why the other candidate does not. This article will describe the arguments from both sides in an objective manner.

Even after the primaries are over and a Democratic candidate is nominated, this article can still be helpful by providing arguments from both sides that readers could use when wondering who would have been the better choice. If readers want to add rebuttals to what was written here or other reasons of unelectabilty for one of the two candidates, they may do so in the comments section. Sources are referenced within the body of the article by an italized letter and number enclosed in parentheses, which are used to correlate to the actual source URL under the "sources" section.

(c1) Caricature of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. CC BY-SA.
(c1) Caricature of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. CC BY-SA. | Source

Arguments that Hillary Clinton is unelectable

Supporters of Bernie Sanders are very vocal about their support for the self-proclaimed socialist and insist he not only will win the primaries and become the Democratic nominee, but also he is the better and more qualified candidate. They point to the scandals in which Hillary Clinton has supposedly been involved and argue that she therefore could not win in the general election. However, proponents of the Hillary campaign would argue that the alleged scandals have yet to drastically hurt her and that they have yet to be proven true.

The following is a list of the reasons why supporters of Bernie Sanders believe Hillary Clinton is not electable and why they prefer to vote for Bernie Sanders:

  • Hillary's campaign is funded by Wall Street. According to cnn.com, Hillary Clinton's campaign receives 7.3% in donations from Wall Street (a1). It is reasonable to conclude that she's at least partially influenced by corporations. Hillary-supporters would argue that Hillary simply collects donations from any democrat who wants to support her including corporate democrats, and accusations of Hillary being bought is only assumption that lacks evidence.
  • Hillary has been involved in many scandels, including but not limited to the Benghazi attacks and her email scandel. In fact, as the Democratic primaries take place, Hillary's use of her private email as Secretary of State is being investigated by the FBI. This could hurt her during the general election if she were elected especially if new information is uncovered.
  • Hillary has voted for many controversial things such as voting for the Iraq war and the American war in Afghanistan and voting against closing Gitmo. Bernie-supporters point out that her admitting her support for the "Bush wars" was a mistake can be used against the former Secretary of State by questioning her judgement.
  • Hillary has (at the time of this article's publish date) refused to make her paid speeches public. If she has nothing to hide, why not make known to voters what she said to Wall Street in her private speeches?
  • Bernie has higher favorability rating among the American voters. According to Huffingtonpost.com, Hillary's favorability/unfavorability rating is 40%/54%. In contrast, Bernie's favorability/unfavorability rating is 50%/39%(a2).
  • Bernie is trusted more than Hillary among independent voters. According to Huffingtonpost.com, 74% of independent voters do not trust Hillary Clinton, and independent voters make up 43% of American voters (a3).
  • According to Salon.com, 64% of females find Hillary dishonest and not trustworthy (a4).
  • Bernie has higher support among hispanics. According to Gallup, Bernie's unfavorability rating among hispanics is 7%; Hillary's is 21% (a5).

Reasons why Bernie Sanders is unelectable

Supporters of Hillary Clinton have argued that Bernie Sanders is too polarizing of a candidate to win in the general election. According to one article from vox.com, political science professor Seth Masket said "Sanders would cost the Democratic Party 2 to 3 percentage points in a general election" while Miroff stated "the loss would be in the vicinity of 6 to 10 points." (b1)

Hillary-supporters also point to the actions of the RNC and republican groups helping Bernie try to win the democrat primaries. According to an article from Bloomberg.com, the RNC is "...attempting to pick their Democratic opponent in the general election..." and the candidate they prefer is "Bernie over Hillary" (b2). They argue if Hilary isn't the bigger threat to republicans, why would the RNC help Bernie try to win the democratic nomination (b4, b5)?

Some of the arguments used to show why Bernie is not the better choice are listed in the following:

  • Bernie has a controversial past. It is public knowledge that he didn't have a real, steady-paying job until the age of forty. Also, Bernie avoided the draft, once called for the CIA to be abolished, and honeymooned in the USSR.
  • In regards to Bernie being high in the polls and defeating republican candidates by wider margins, Hillary-supporters argue that it is because Bernie hasn't been scrutinized and attacked by the republicans on the level Hillary has and that if he were to win the Democratic nomination, the polls would change drastically.
  • Bernie lacks the support among black voters that Hillary Clinton has. According to Gallup, Clinton's unfavorability among black voters is 12%; Bernie's is 16% (a5). Even if Bernie does win the democratic nomination, it is not certain whether African-American voter turnout would be high during the general election.
  • Bernie is a self-proclaimed socialist. According to a Gallup poll, only 47% of Americans would vote for a socialist, but 50% would not (b3).
  • Bernie has done many things in office that could be used against him such as his being the only democratic senator at the time who voted against the renewal of the import-export bank, which was originally established by FDR; he voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act on 2000; and he voted for the Dodd-Frank law.
  • Bernie wants to raise the payroll tax to fund medical and family leave whereas Hillary would tax the top 1% to fund it. The tax increase may not be by much, but it would nonetheless be used against Bernie during the general election.
  • In 2013, Bernie tried to get his healthcare proposal passed, which would have raised income and payroll taxes by a total of 9% and not excluded the middle-class. His current health care plan's cost has been challenged, which would be used by republicans
  • Bernie appears to be non-religious, at least that's what his response when asked what he believes in during the Democratic town hall of South Carolina on February 23 implies. According to Gallup, 58% of Americans would vote for an atheist, but 40% would not. (b3)

Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders map

(c2) Map showing each state that Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have won or are predicted to win. Hillary (green), Sanders (blue), unknown (gray). CC BY-SA
(c2) Map showing each state that Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have won or are predicted to win. Hillary (green), Sanders (blue), unknown (gray). CC BY-SA | Source

How each democrat candidate matches up with the republican candidates

Hillary clinton vs
Hillary %/Repulican candidate %
Bernie vs
Bernie %/Republican candidate %
Donald Trump
48%/44%
Donald Trump
51%/41%
Ted Cruz
49%/44%
Ted Cruz
51%/39%
Marco Rubio
47%/46%
Marco Rubio
46%/41%
John Kasich
43%/46%
John Kasich
--/--
Ben Carson
49%/43%
Ben Carson
48%/34%
The polls of Bernie Sanders vs republican candidates and Hillary Clinton candidate. (Note: these numbers may have changed from the day this article's publish date.) Source:http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster#2016-general-election

Who do you think is more electable?

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Why is electablity important when voting for a candidate?

Should democrats care who is more electable? If the objective for voters is to try to get a democrat in the White House, then the objective should also be to nominate the candidate who has the better chance to win in the general election. With that being said, politics is more than just voting for the candidate with whom a voter agrees the most. For most people, it's about supporting the best candidate of a political party that best reflects a voter's values and beliefs.

Sources

  • (a1) http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/21/investing/hillary-clinton-wall-street-donations/
  • (a2) http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster#favorability-ratings
  • (a3) http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/bernie-sanders-will-becom_b_9289066.html
  • (a4) http://www.salon.com/2016/02/19/hillary_clinton_just_cant_win_democrats_need_to_accept_that_only_bernie_sanders_can_defeat_the_gop/
  • (a5) http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/189263/clinton-sanders-images-across-racial-ethnic-groups.aspx?g_source=ELECTION_2016&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles
  • (b1) http://www.vox.com/2016/2/5/10923304/bernie-sanders-general-election
  • (b2) http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-01-19/republican-operatives-are-trying-to-help-bernie-sanders
  • (b3) http://www.gallup.com/poll/183713/socialist-presidential-candidates-least-appealing.aspx
  • (b4) http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/republicans-offer-unsolicited-support-bernie-sanders
  • (b5) http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-dem-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/02/hillary-clinton-race-related-criticism-republican-national-committee-219616
  • (c1) https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/24527808392
  • (c2) https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polling_map_for_the_2016_Democratic_primaries.svg

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    • profile image

      cha 11 months ago

      Hillary won, so...

      So, she'll be your typical republican president until 2020 when she loses to even further rightwinger Ted cruz

    • profile image

      VicPM 13 months ago

      @velvetblue17 who cares if he or she made a typo. I've made accidental typos myself. If you're mad that bernie lost, blame bernie. It means he wasn't the better candidate. People wanted hillary.

    • VelvetBlue17 profile image

      VelvetBlue17 14 months ago

      You don't even know how to spell the word scandal in your silly hit piece.

    • profile image

      Patricia Scarlett 15 months ago

      Bernie is for the people and is more a democrat.

      Hillary is more right wing and is supported by big business. I also feel she has done many illegal things. Many democrats I know will not vote for Hillary.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 16 months ago from Central Florida

      Something the DNC needs to keep in mind is that Bernie's voters will not automatically default to Hillary if she gets the nomination. Many are independents, some are Republicans and some non-voters. They have no allegiance to the Democratic Party and don't need to accept an establishment candidate shoved down their throats.

      Most of Hillary's followers are long-time Dems and will accept whoever the party ends up nominating. If it is Bernie Sanders, then he will have Hillary Dems, his own Dems plus the assortment I mentioned before. It is doubtful that the Republican candidate could overcome that mix.