Poll: Are Clinton Delegates Dissatisfied?

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Sunday, June 22, 2008 and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Tuesday, June 24, 2008. AP

Despite calls by Democratic leaders for party unity at the Democratic convention, a CBS News/New York Times survey shows some continuing dissatisfaction among delegates pledged to Senator Hillary Clinton. The dissatisfaction among Clinton delegates relates to both the nominee and the process by which he was elected.

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Many of those who say they will still vote for Clinton on the floor of the convention are doubtful about Barack Obama's electability and concerned about his lack of experience. Fewer than half are enthusiastic about his impending nomination. Among all delegates, about a third are not satisfied with the Democratic Party's method of choosing a nominee; that rises to nearly half of Clinton's pledged delegates. A majority of her delegates want the Michigan and Florida delegates seated with full votes at the convention.

Forty-two percent of delegates originally pledged to Hillary Clinton (20 percent of all pledged delegates) and 8 percent of superdelegates say they will vote for Clinton on the convention's presidential roll call.

Delegates who say they will vote for Clinton on the floor of the convention overwhelmingly worry about Obama's lack of experience. Sixty-two percent say that is his biggest weakness.

Most of the interviews for this CBS News/New York Times Poll of delegates to the Democratic convention were conducted before the announcement of an agreement between the two campaigns that Hillary Clinton's name would be entered into nomination at the Democratic convention, so they may not reflect the actual number who will cast votes for her on that roll call.

Delegates who will vote for Clinton on the floor are less confident than delegates voting for Obama that he can win in November. Sixty percent are confident, compared to 86 percent of those who will vote for Obama.

The poll shows that delegates to the Democratic convention see Obama's inspirational qualities as his greatest strength and express enthusiasm for him as the Democratic nominee. Twenty-three percent say so, ahead of bringing change to the country, which 13 percent say is his greatest strength. Being a good communicator, leadership skills, the ability to unite the country, and being a fresh face all tie for third place at 10 percent each.

Delegates agree that Obama's greatest weakness as a candidate is inexperience, although Clinton delegates are much more likely to say so. Nearly six in 10 Clinton delegates say Obama's lack of experience is his greatest weakness, compared with only 29 percent of delegates pledged to Obama. Nearly as many Obama delegates (24 percent) say he doesn't have any weaknesses as a candidate.

Most delegates originally elected as pledged to Hillary Clinton (60 percent) say they support Obama's nomination enthusiastically. However, Clinton delegates are more likely than delegates overall to support Obama with reservations or simply because he is the de facto nominee, and 5 percent say they don't support him.

During the convention, the Obama campaign is expected to call for the formation of a commission that would address the rules for selecting a presidential nominee in 2012.

Currently, two-thirds of Democratic delegates are satisfied with the system the Democratic party uses to pick its nominees, but just 21 percent are "very satisfied" with it.

Satisfaction with the nominating system is tied to which candidate delegates support. Delegates pledged to support Barack Obama are happier with the nominating system than are those pledged to support Hillary Clinton. In fact, 48 percent of Clinton's pledged delegates are not satisfied with the Democratic Party's method of selecting its nominee.

Much of the dissatisfaction among Clintons' delegates may stem from what happened in Florida and Michigan. Those two states violated Democratic National Committee rules by holding their primaries too early. Both states were ultimately penalized, first by being awarded no delegates, and then being granted half the original allocation.

Sixty-one percent of delegates pledged to Clinton say Florida and Michigan's delegates should have been granted full votes. Seventy-six percent of Obama's pledged delegates are satisfied with the outcome.

The commission, if approved by the delegates, will be urged to address the criticized frontloading of the primary calendar. This year, more than half the states held their primaries or caucuses by February 5th.

Although Iowa and New Hampshire continued their "first in the nation" status, 57 percent of delegates now say they would like to see other states hold their events first. (Only a handful of Iowa and New Hampshire delegates were interviewed; more of them want to leave the calendar as it is.)

The commission will also be encouraged to reduce the number of superdelegates - elected officials and party leaders who are not bound by results of primaries and caucuses - or to reduce their influence by increasing the number of pledged delegates.

Fifty-five percent of Democratic delegates think the party should continue to have a mix of super and elected delegates. A third, however, would like to see the party select its nominee using only elected or pledged delegates.

The CBS News/New York Times Delegate Poll was conducted July 16-August 17, 2008 with a random sample of 970 Democratic delegates. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Interviews were conducted via phone; if a delegate preferred, he or she could complete the survey online. Online interviewing was conducted by CfMC, a San Francisco-based research software company.
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