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Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in national CBS/NYT poll

Last Updated Mar 21, 2016 7:14 PM EDT

By Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Jennifer De Pinto, Sarah Dutton

The Race for the Nomination

Hillary Clinton now leads Bernie Sanders by five points nationally, 50 percent to 45 percent, ahead by slightly less than last month.

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Clinton continues to lead among women and has a sizable lead among voters over age 45. She also leads among Democrats and non-white voters. As he has in the voting contests this year, Sanders gets strong support from younger voters and independents. But Sanders has made inroads since last month among some groups in which Clinton dominates: women and Democrats. While he still loses to Clinton among both, his support among women and Democrats has risen 8 points since February. The race is close among white voters, as it was last month.

The poll findings suggest an "enthusiasm gap:" while 56 percent of Democratic primary voters would enthusiastically support Sanders if he wins the nomination, just 40 percent say the same if Clinton should win. Still, both Clinton and Sanders would receive widespread support from Democratic primary voters should either become the nominee; just one in ten would not support each candidate.

And each side's supporters say they would support the other candidate: among Sanders' supporters, 19 percent say they would not support Clinton, while just 11 percent of Clinton's supporters would not support Sanders.

Expectations are that Clinton will be their party's nominee: 72 percent think she will win the nomination, similar to views over the last few months.

The Democrats: Candidate Characteristics

These voters see clear differences between the two candidates. Fifty-six percent of Democratic primary voters view Clinton as honest, but even more, 84 percent, say the same of Sanders.

But Clinton is more widely viewed as having policies that are achievable. Seventy-eight percent of Democratic primary voters think Clinton's policy proposals are realistic, compared to 56 percent who say that about Sanders' proposals. Nearly four in 10 Democratic primary voters think Sanders' proposals are not realistic.

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President Obama and the Democratic Nomination

President Barack Obama remains popular among Democratic primary voters. Just under half would like to see President Obama's policies continued, and that proves to be an advantage for Hillary Clinton. She receives support from 67 percent of those who want to see a continuation of the current President's policies. Sanders receives more support from those who would like to see more liberal policies enacted.

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President Obama's Approval Ratings

Overall, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing (that rises to 84 percent among Democratic primary voters), and 44 percent disapprove - similar to recent evaluations.

The President's approval rating on handling the economy has steadily ticked up, and is now the highest it has been in many years -- since October 2009, when 54 percent approved. 51 percent now say the economy is good (the highest in a year), while 47 percent say it is bad. 28 percent say it is improving.

At 42 percent, President Obama's approval rating on handling foreign policy has also improved since earlier this year.

The Party and the Campaigns

Democratic primary voters offer positive assessments of their party and the Democratic campaign this year, in stark contrast to their Republican counterparts, who give more negative assessments of their party and campaigns.

Sixty-two percent say the Democratic Party is united, while just 33 percent see it as divided.

Eighty-two percent of Democratic primary voters are mostly proud of the Democratic presidential campaigns, and just 13 percent are mostly embarrassed. Seventy-eight percent say the campaigns are addressing the issues that matter to them.

Forty percent say that compared to past campaigns the tone this year is more positive, and 48 percent see it as the same as in past years.


This poll was conducted by telephone March 17-20, 2016 among a random sample of 1,252 adults nationwide, including 1,058 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and the New York Times by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

The margin of error for the sample of 388 Democratic primary voters is six percentage points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

3/21/16 CBS/NYT Dem Poll Toplines by CBSNewsPolitics