Democrats Split on Whether Campaign Is Hurting the Party

by Frank Newport

Obama and Clinton supporters diverge

PRINCETON, NJ -- Democrats are split right down the middle on whether the protracted campaign for the Democratic nomination is hurting the Democratic Party. Forty-eight percent say it's hurting the party, and 48% say it is not.

The reason for these split sentiments on the impact of the campaign is clear when the views of Obama supporters and Clinton supporters are separated from one another.

A majority of Obama supporters say the campaign is hurting the party and that party leaders should get together to back one of the candidates. A majority of Clinton supporters, on the other hand, say the continuing campaign is not hurting the party and should continue. Since Obama leads in terms of earned delegates, popular vote, and national polling at the moment, it is perhaps not surprising that his supporters would be happy to see the race come to a close, presumably under the assumption that he would be declared the winner. Clinton supporters, it can be assumed, like the idea of continuing the campaign in the hope that Obama will stumble, leaving an opening or a rationale for superdelegates to support Clinton.

Democrats were also asked if the campaign for their party's nomination is too negative, with evenly divided results. Forty-seven percent of Democrats say it is, while 49% say it is not.

But there are again big differences within Democrats based on candidate support. Obama supporters by a 3-to-2 margin agree that the campaign is too negative, while Clinton supporters just as strongly believe the campaign has not become too negative.

Many observers have commented that both campaigns have been negative in the days leading into Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. But Obama supporters who say things are too negative widely say Clinton is mostly to blame. Clinton supporters who say things are too negative, on the other hand, blame both campaigns.


All in all, Democrats are divided on the impact of the continuing and protracted campaign for the Democratic nomination. The reasons for this division are clear. Clinton supporters, apparently realizing that their candidate's best hope of winning is to continue to campaign and hope something happens to give her a break, are fine with a continuing campaign, are not worried about its negativity, and do not think it is bad for their party. Given the fact that Obama is ahead in the race for the nomination at the moment, it is not surprising that his supporters would like to have the race wrapped up and believe that its protracted length is hurting the party overall.

Thus, it would appear difficult at this time for Democrats nationally to come to a consensus on ending the Democratic race. As long as Clinton can maintain a substantial base of support, her supporters will likely advocate continuing the race, to keep open the possibility that she can win the nomination.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,016 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 18-20, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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