A Suffolk University/USA TODAY national poll of likely Democratic voters shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton easily topping the Democratic field. Meanwhile, a majority of voters from all parties say they are bothered by Clinton’s email and Benghazi issues, but Democrats show more tolerance on these matters.

Clinton (41 percent) led Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (23 percent) and Vice President Joe Biden (20 percent), while all other candidates together totaled 2 percent, and 14 percent of voters were undecided.

A majority of voters from all parties had concerns about the former secretary of state’s handling of her email and Benghazi. But 22 percent of Democratic voters said that her handling of the Benghazi situation bothered them and 44 percent said that it will hurt her in the general election. Thirty-three percent of Democrats said the email issue bothers them, and 60 percent say they believe it will hurt her in the general election.

“Some Clinton voters acknowledge that her handling of her emails and the Benghazi situation bothers them and that the issues could hurt her in the general election if she is the nominee,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “But for now, many are sticking by her, even though the race should shake up dramatically when the first official Democratic debate is held in less than two weeks.”

Some 60 percent of general-election voters said they were bothered by the email investigations, and 52 percent were bothered by her explanation of the Benghazi attack that killed two U.S. foreign service officials and two CIA contractors. Moreover, 70 percent of likely voters said that the email issue will hurt her in the general election if she is the Democratic nominee, and 59 percent said that her Benghazi explanation also would hurt her in the general election.

Clinton’s favorability was upside-down among voters from all parties: 39 percent favorable versus 51 percent unfavorable. Sanders was slightly positive overall with a 37 percent favorable and 33 percent unfavorable rating. Meanwhile, Biden, who has not declared a candidacy, was the most popular among all voters polled, with a 51 percent favorable rating and a 35 percent unfavorable rating.

Biden also was given more favorable descriptors than his Democratic opponents. When likely voters were asked what one word described the vice president, 12 percent said “favorable/like,” and 7 percent said “honest/honorable/integrity/trustworthy.” Three of the four top identifiers for Hillary Clinton were negatives, including “liar/dishonest” (13 percent), “untrustworthy/fake” (8 percent), and “deceitful/sneaky/tricky” (6 percent). However, 8 percent identified her as “smart/intelligent/knowledgeable.” The top identifier for Bernie Sanders was “socialist” (11 percent).

“Biden is seen in a much more favorable light than his opponents. His reputation and broad appeal makes people comfortable with him as a strong Democratic candidate with minimal baggage who is not considered extreme by the average voter,” said Paleologos.

With October marking the beginning of the Democratic debate season, 54 percent of Democratic voters said the Democratic National Committee should not sanction more debates beyond the six already approved, while 34 percent wanted to see more in the mix.


The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters likely to cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election was conducted Sept. 24-28 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were very or somewhat likely to vote. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. The margin of error for the Democratic primary subset of 430 voters is +/- 4.7 percentage points. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.