Can Bernie Sanders Pull Off a Stunning Upset in New York?
Policy + Politics

Can Bernie Sanders Pull Off a Stunning Upset in New York?

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York is supposedly Clinton Country, and the polls suggest it will stay that way in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

The notion of a Sanders victory has been mathematically dismissed by the wonks at the data analysis website FiveThirtyEight. Their “polls-plus” forecast gives Hillary a 99 percent chance of winning, and they project the margin will be 15.8 points.

The respected and widely reported NBC4NY/WSJ/Marist poll has Clinton besting Sanders by 17 points. A YouGov survey that is slightly more recent than the Marist poll has Clinton ahead by 10, and a Gravis poll released Sunday night but taken on April 5 and 6, gives Clinton a six-point edge.

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While those declining poll numbers may be starting to undermine one of the Clinton Assumptions — that the Chicago-born former senator from New York would own the state’s primary — a 6-point victory after all the pot-fueled euphoria at Bernie rallies would be solid if not mind-blowing.

But social media may be sending a message that should give pause to the Clinton campaign and at least some of Hillary’s super delegates.

The results on 30dB, a website that gauges social-media sentiment (and full disclosure, for which I consult), show that of the 17,800 opinions recorded for “Sanders + New York” over the past seven days, 46 percent are positive. Of the 14,800 opinions of “Clinton + New York” shared over the same time period, 52 percent are positive. That mirrors the Gravis poll. So far, so good for Clinton.

Source: - Sanders and New York vs Clinton and New York

The trend lines over the past couple of days tell a significantly different story, however, with Sanders pulling in 58 percent positives on April 18, vs. 46 percent positives for Clinton.

Source: - Sanders and New York vs Clinton and New York

Howard Kaushansky, founder of 30dB, cautions that those results are likely related to Bernie’s Brooklyn love-in — the record crowd of 28,300 Sandernistas who showed up to cheer their 74-year-old rebel and predict an upset on Tuesday — and the volume of opinions is more than 3,000 for Sanders and fewer than 2,000 for Clinton. He also notes that the outcomes represent an analysis of what has been posted on social media — opinions expressed as opposed to answers to specific questions posed by polls.  In addition, Kaushansky says, not everybody spouting an opinion on social media may be of voting age, or registered. The spike may primarily reflect Bernie supporters being vocal and is “not necessarily reflective of a massive shift in voting.”

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Still, on Feb. 1, the morning of the Iowa Caucuses, 30dB saw the trend lines for Clinton and Sanders almost converging. The day before, the Real Clear Politics poll average had Clinton ahead by 4 points. She won by 0.2.

Sanders told John Dickerson on Face the Nation yesterday morning that he thinks he could pull an upset and win in New York. Not a close second. A win.

“We're fighting hard,” Sanders said. “I think we have real shot to win on Tuesday if there is a large voter turnout.”

Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor emeritus at Hunter College, told The New Yorker’s John Cassidy last week that he expects turnout to be high. And the New York Daily News reported an “unprecedented surge” in voter registration, though it said the state could not break out party affiliation.

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Despite the new voters, it remains hard to see how the Bernie Brigade can overcome the union armies of service workers and teachers that will march to the polls for Hillary — or how Sanders will make significant inroads with older African-American voters who have been reliable Clinton followers (except when Barack Obama is on the ballot).

But even Peggy Noonan, the elegant doyenne of Republican political columnists and author of the paean to Ronald Reagan What I Saw at the Revolution, has confessed to feeling if not the “Bern,” a certain shaking of the ground. “I went to one of [Clinton’s] rallies in New York at the Apollo Theater the other day,” she said on CBS’s Face the Nation on April 3. “People were enacting the appropriate enthusiasm, but … the sisterhood of the traveling pants suit [was] not there. Then Bernie goes to the Bronx and he's got X thousands of people really cheering.… I'm a New Yorker. Something's going on in New York and we're not seeing it in the polls yet.”

Maybe, just maybe, what Noonan is sensing is a new revolution taking hold in her town.