Sanders Versus Clinton Supporters on the Economy

A new survey finds that Sanders and Clinton supporters share strikingly similar views on trade – and not in the direction you might think.

Compared to “core” supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, core supporters of former candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders are more pessimistic about the economy and less supportive of a global role for America, says a new survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

But contrary to the anti-trade platform of their preferred candidate, Sanders supporters – like Clinton’s supporters – also believe trade and globalization to be generally good for the U.S. economy.

In its survey of 2,061 adults, the Chicago Council defined “core” supporters as Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents who prefer a particular candidate as their top choice for president. Among core Sanders supporters, 67% said they thought international trade “is good for the U.S. economy,” versus 71% of Clinton supporters who said the same, and 70% said trade is “good for their own standard of living” (versus 75% of Clintonites). 75% of Sanders supporters also said that globalization “is mostly good for the United States.”

 

Where there are differences, however, is in the respective views of Clinton and Sanders supporters on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and whether trade creates U.S. jobs.  While 74% of core Clinton supporters said they support the trade agreement, 56% of Sanders supporters said likewise, and only 41% of Sanders supporters said they believe trade “is good for creating U.S. jobs.”

“I think the TPP has become a rallying cry for the loss of jobs,” says Dina Smeltz, a Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council who co-authored the survey report. “Our research shows Sanders supporters seem to be more concerned about economic inequality and economic mobility. If they really felt that strongly about trade, we’d see all the trade questions looking more the same.”

Compared to Clinton supporters, Sanders supporters are much more likely to be “economically disaffected,” says Smeltz. For example, 57% or Sanders supporters – compared to 41% of Clinton supporters – said they believe that the next generation “will be worse off than adults today.”

They are also more downbeat regarding America’s power and global role. Sanders supporters, for example, gave the United States a rating of 8.5 (out of 10) in global influence, while Clinton advocates rated America an 8.9.  Moreover, 61% of Sanders supporters said that the United States “is no greater than other nations” in the world.  Perhaps as a result of these pessimistic views, just 34% of Sanders voters think it’s important for the U.S. to maintain “superior economic power,” and only 29% think it’s important for American to maintain “superior military power.”

 

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has recently been urging Sanders voters to vote for him instead of Clinton, but the Chicago Council’s survey finds that to be unlikely. While other research by the Chicago Council finds that Trump supporters share Sanders supporters’ pessimism about the economy, 90% of Sanders supporters say they will support Clinton. “It’s really hard to counteract partisan loyalties,” says Smeltz.

The Chicago Council also found that Sanders and Clinton supporters also share nearly identical views on immigration and climate change, Smeltz says – in stark contrast to Trump supporters and Republicans more generally.

While the conflict between Sanders and Clinton and their supporters dominated the primaries – and threatened to overwhelm the start of the Democratic convention this week – the reality is that the supporters of both candidates have far more in common than they do differences in opinion.