Nearly Half of Voters Say They Could Not Vote for a 'Democratic Socialist,' Poll Finds

Forty-six percent of voters say they would not consider casting their ballot for a presidential candidate who calls themselves a "democratic socialist," a recent poll has found.

The primary survey, conducted by Yahoo! News and YouGov between February 12 and 13, found that only 35 percent of voters would consider voting for a "democratic socialist," while 18 percent said they were "not sure."

While the poll's findings might sound like bad news for 2020 presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, the same study also put Sanders ahead of each of his Democratic rivals in a one-on-one race. In many cases, the Vermont senator was ahead by double-digit margins.

In a string of hypothetical races, the study, which saw 1,530 U.S. registered voters polled, put Sanders ahead of each of his main competitors, with the Vermont senator beating former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg by 15 points, with Sanders claiming 53 percent of support, compared with Bloomberg's 38 percent.

Meanwhile, in imagined races with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, voters suggested Sanders would win by 17 points and 21 points respectively. The Vermont senator claimed 54 percent of support compared with Buttigieg's 37 percent, and 54 percent to Klobuchar's 33 percent.

The competitors closest to beating Sanders, the study suggested, would be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who fell behind the Vermont Senator by just two points, with Sanders claiming 44 percent of support compared to Warren's 42 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who came up four points behind, with 44 percent to Sanders' 48 percent.

The Democratic primary is still far from being a two-way race, of course. However, despite voters being reluctant to throw their support behind a democratic socialist, Sanders still appears to be surging ahead, winning the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and leading in national surveys.

As of early Monday morning, an average of polls updated by RealClearPolitics found Sanders to be in the lead with 23.6 percent of the vote compared to Biden's 19.2. Bloomberg, meanwhile, came up at 14.2 percent, with Warren at 12.4 percent, Buttigieg at 10.6 and Klobuchar behind with 4.6 percent.

While many appear to believe Sanders is the one to defeat President Donald Trump, it is unclear whether his self-proclaimed identity as a democratic socialist will hurt his chances.

The Yahoo! News/YouGov poll found that more than 60 percent of voters struggled to see any difference between democratic socialism and socialism, with 62 percent of participants identifying Sanders as a "socialist." Eighteen percent said he was not a socialist, while 20 percent said they were not sure.

Asked whether the two ideologies are the same or different, 38 percent of participants said they believed they were "the same," while 38 percent said they were "different." Meanwhile, 24 percent said they weren't sure.

What many did appear to agree on was having an unfavorable view of socialism, with 47 percent of voters having a negative view on the ideology, while 26 percent felt positive towards socialism.

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado on February 16, 2020. Nearly half of voters said they would not vote for a "democratic socialist" in a recent study, despite strong support for Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty

Asked what they viewed as socialist policies, more than 45 percent said they believed the following fell under the ideology's aims: equal incomes for everyone (60 percent), eliminating private health insurance (60 percent), government ownership of banks (59 percent), a guaranteed annual income (54 percent), a tax on wealth (47 percent) and forgiveness of all student loan debt (47 percent).

As a self-described democratic socialist Sanders has campaigned on the promise to fight for "Medicare for All," with the goal of creating a single-payer national health insurance program offering comprehensive health care coverage that is free at the point of service.

He has also vowed to fight for a Green New Deal, which would seek to transform the U.S. energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs to help address the climate crisis, in addition to championing a "college for all," system that would guarantee access to tuition and debt-free education.

His promise to fight for initiatives like a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and free public college have also enjoyed the support of popular New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is also a self-proclaimed democratic socialist.

In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Ocasio-Cortez said she was aware that "a president can't wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want."

On issues like medicare, however, she said: "The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don't think so."

Newsweek has contacted Sanders' campaign team for comment.

Nearly Half of Voters Say They Could Not Vote for a 'Democratic Socialist,' Poll Finds | U.S.