Voices & Choices

Why don’t Bernie Sanders supporters have a second choice?

Why don’t Bernie Sanders supporters have a second choice?

Last week, The Economist published results from a ranked choice voting (RCV) poll which indicated a final showdown between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, with Biden eking out a win. The deciding factor appears to be the choice of many Bernie Sanders supporters to abstain from ranking either of the two finalists. 

When Sanders was eliminated and the field narrowed to two, Warren was trailing Biden by 12 points. This looked like the moment when Sanders supporters could coalesce around another progressive candidate and help push Warren across the finish line.

And indeed, of the Sanders supporters who expressed a preference between the two finalists, three out of four preferred Warren. But it wasn’t enough. A majority of Sanders supporters (52%) did not rank either of the finalists so their ballots did not count in the final round. The “Sanders boost” was not enough to propel Warren to victory.

What caused Sanders supporters to abstain from ranking the other front-runners? Is it stubbornness, as The Economist posits, or is it a genuine belief  there is no meaningful difference between Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden? 

One way to find out is to watch the results from the 4 states which will use RCV in their Democratic primary elections. When the stakes are higher and delegates are on the line, will ideological purity win out or will supporters of Bernie Sanders decide they have a backup choice after all?

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