Sen. Bernie Sanders has been in government for almost 40 years, making his first bid for the White House several decades into his career in 2016.
Sanders received more than 13 million votes in the 2016 Democratic primary, finishing with just over 43 percent of the popular vote. As of Thursday, Sanders is at just over 17 percent in national polls of the 2020 Democratic primary, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. He has been near that level of support since entering the race.
Sanders polls best with younger voters. In 2016, he won 70 percent of voters under 30 in Democratic primaries held through April of that year.
Ellen Pirro, assistant teaching professor of political science, said she believes that is because Sanders is “very different” from what people in expect in a politician.
“The biggest difference [from 2016] is the fact that he’s now something more of a known quantity,” Pirro said.
Name recognition is important in presidential elections, Pirro said. She said many lower-polling candidates were first introduced to people through their presidential campaigns.
Sanders describes himself as a Democratic socialist, supporting a wealth tax and Medicare for All. Recent polls have found a majority of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism, but the view could be detrimental in winning over voters in a general election, due to Republican voters’ overwhelmingly negative views of socialism.
Sanders said in his 2020 campaign launch that his campaign would be “unprecedented in modern American history,” and said he plans to “lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country."
In 2017, Sanders, along with 14 other senators, wrote a “Medicare for All” bill. The bill was co-sponsored by three of Sanders’ current opponents, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris.
In Harris' time running for president, she has said she is no longer "comfortable" with certain aspects of that bill, including how it would raise taxes on the middle class. The senator has offered her own Medicare for All proposal with a different pay for.
Harris has since reversed her support for the bill, saying she was not “comfortable” with the proposal, instead offering her own Medicare for All proposal.
Sanders is the oldest candidate in the race at 78 years old, but is viewed favorably by most people aged 18 to 29, the age cohort he does best with. Fifty percent of those surveyed in a YouGov poll released Wednesday had “very” or “somewhat” favorable views of Sanders, compared to 32 percent with a "very" or “somewhat” unfavorable view of the senator.
In an Iowa State poll released Thursday, Sanders is in third place among likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers with 18 percent support, behind Warren in first with 28 percent and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in second with 20 percent. Sanders polls first among voters aged 18 to 34, with 32 percent support.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized Sen. Kamala Harris' position on Sanders' Medicare for All bill as a "reversal." The story has been updated to accurately reflect her position. The Daily regrets this error.