By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders remain the top candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination as potential voters appear increasingly interested in picking a winner this year instead of someone who shares their interests, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.
The national public opinion poll found that Biden has a slight advantage among registered Democrats, though Sanders has the most support when independents are factored in. While each state sets its own rules for picking the party’s nominee, two of the early primary states – New Hampshire and South Carolina – allow independents to participate.
According to the Jan. 8-9 poll, 23% of registered Democrats said they supported Biden, while 20% supported Sanders and 15% said they would vote for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was backed by 8% of registered Democrats and 7% supported Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
None of the other candidates received more than 3%, and another 13% of registered Democrats said they do not know which candidate to support.
The top five candidates remained the same when independents were factored in, though Sanders had a 2 percentage point advantage over Biden among the larger group.
Sanders also was picked by the largest share of Democrats and independents as the best steward of the environment and economy, as well as the candidate who would be the best at handling the country’s healthcare system.
Biden, however, was largely considered to be most likely of all of the candidates to beat Trump in a general election.
The perception that Biden is the most electable could play a bigger role this year as the party picks a nominee. According to Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past few years, Democrats appear to be increasingly interested in simply finding a candidate who can win in the November general election.
According to the poll, 15% of Democrats said the main reason they were supporting a particular candidate was because they felt that candidate could win. In comparison, only 7% of Democrats said that in a similar poll that was conducted in August and September of 2015.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,116 adults in all, including 479 Democrats and 144 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 5 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)