How Likely was a Bernie Sanders Election Win?

The Berning Question

During the primaries we heard it time and again: Bernie Sanders wasn’t electable in the general election. But how true was this claim? The basis of the assertion was that his base was too narrow and it wouldn’t translate into a Bernie Sanders election win.

However, Sanders had the backing of one crucial portion of the population that Hillary Clinton struggled with: white working-class voters. Could that have been the difference in a Bernie Sanders election win? If things were different, would we now be talking about President-elect Bernie Sanders? Keep reading to find the answers to these berning questions.

Polls Predicted Bernie Sanders Election Win

Bernie Sanders caricature in front of the American flag.

Source: Flickr

After it looked all but certain that Trump had clinched the Republican nomination, RealClearPolitics poll averages in early June had Sanders leading Trump by 10 points in a hypothetical head-to-head election match-up. During the same time frame, Clinton and Trump were polling neck and neck, with Trump even ahead in multiple polls.

Sanders even acknowledged this fact during an appearance on Meet The Press by stating:

Right now, in every major poll, national poll and statewide poll done in the last month, six weeks, we are defeating Trump often by big numbers, and always at a larger margin than secretary Clinton is.

The real kicker comes when examining Sanders’ popularity among white working-class voters, a cohort Hillary Clinton lost handily. They propelled Sanders to unexpected wins in Wisconsin and Michigan during the primaries, two states that Trump surprised Clinton on election night.

Enthusiasm Goes a Long Way

Crowd at a Bernie Sanders rally.

Source: Flickr

How important is enthusiasm when it comes to elections? You can’t put a price on it. As you may remember, President Obama held massive rallies with enthusiastic crowds in his initial bid for presidency and during his re-election campaign four years ago. Yes We Can!

Enthusiasm translates to votes. Like President Obama, Trump too held massive rallies attracting tens of thousands of supporters, something Hillary Clinton could only dream of. The final outcome of the election reflected this undeniable fact.

Similar to Trump and Obama, the enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders was palpable. He drew enormous, raucous audiences all over the country that were passionate about supporting the senator. However, after the primaries, Bernie Sanders voters were reluctantly left with having to back Hillary Clinton. Unsurprisingly, many didn’t show up to the polls when it counted.

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Not So Favorable

Bumper stickers showing Bernie Sanders supporters' reluctancy to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Source: Zerohedge

For the first time in Presidential Election history, both candidates had negative favorability ratings. In an election cycle headlined by scandals, both candidates were extremely disliked. Heading into the election, Trump’s favorability was a net negative 20 points, while Clinton’s was negative 10. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders had polled favorably throughout the duration of his bid for the White House.

Moreover, Trump’s message of being an outsider resonated with the American populace. And although not an outsider, Sanders too preached changing the status quo and cleaning house. All of these elements would’ve contributed to the Vermont senator taking a chunk of Trump’s votes in a hypothetical election.

All factors point to the fact that a Bernie Sanders election win was likely, and even highly probable. However, despite everything, this election proved one thing: you can’t make any assumptions until the people have had their say. That is the great thing about democracy and America as a nation.