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Who is Bernie Sanders?
Current job: US senator from Vermont. Running for president of the United States as a Democratic candidate.
Family: Sanders is married to political consultant Jane Sanders, and has one biological son (Levi) from a previous marriage and three stepchildren (Heather, Carina, David).
Hometown: Burlington, Vermont
Political party: Independent but caucuses with Democrats
Previous jobs: Mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989. Member of the US House of Representatives from Vermont's at-large district from 1991 to 2007.
Who is Bernie Sanders' direct competition for the nomination?
Based on a recurring series of national surveys we conduct, we can figure out who the other candidates competing in Bernie Sanders' lane are, and who the broader opponents are within the party.
- The average Sanders-satisfied respondent said they were satisfied with 3.3 other candidates, which is the lowest average number of rivals for a candidate in the race. That's good: it means that people who like Bernie tend to be narrowing down their choices. His supporters are committed, sure, but the "Bernie-or-bust" crowd may be a bit of a myth: it's worth noting only 15 percent of his supporters said they were satisfied with him and him alone.
- Despite their ample political differences, as the two most popular candidates with experience running for the presidency both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden would be satisfactory to large groups of people who said they'll vote in the Democratic primary. All told, about 50% of people who'd be satisfied with Sanders as nominee would also be satisfied with Biden as the nominee.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren is also popular among those who'd be satisfied with Sanders. Indeed, Warren is in the unique position of being the only contender as or more popular among Sanders supporters than she is among Democratic primary voters as a whole. Of those who'd be satisfied with Sanders as nominee, just under half said they'd also be satisfied with Warren as nominee.
- Much like Biden supporters, the people who would be satisfied with Sanders as nominee are unique in that they are very cool on other Democrats. Let's compare people who like Sanders as nominee with the general set of Democratic primary voters. The percentage who would be satisfied with Kamala Harris as nominee is 10 percentage points lower than the overall set of Democrats. We see numbers that are nearly as bad for O'Rourke, Booker and Castro.
- This was worse earlier in the cycle, so we'll potentially see Sanders fans warm up to other people in the field. Sanders fans uniquely dislike Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who performs nearly 20 points worse among Sanders backers than Democrats overall.
INSIDER has been conducting a recurring poll through SurveyMonkey Audience on a national sample to find out how different candidate's constituencies overlap. We ask people whether they are familiar with a candidate, whether they would be satisfied or unsatisfied with that candidate as nominee, and sometimes we also ask whether they think that person would win or lose in a general election against President Donald Trump.
What are Bernie Sanders' political positions?
- On healthcare:
- Sanders is leading the charge for universal healthcare, which has become popularly known as "Medicare-for-all" and is being embraced by most 2020 Democrats. He sponsored a bill pushing for this in 2017. Under Sanders' plan, every American would be provided with health insurance through Medicare and private insurers would be eliminated.
- "The goal of health care must be to provide quality care to all in a cost effective way, not tens of billions in profits for the insurance companies and outrageous compensation packages for CEOs," Sanders said in a campaign speech in California in late March.
- Sanders reintroduced the Medicare for All bill in April. "The American people are increasingly clear. They want a health care system which guarantees health care to all Americans as a right," Sanders said in a statement. "In other words, they want Medicare for All, and that's what we will deliver to them."
- Sanders defended his signature proposal at the September Democratic debate. "Medicare for All is comprehensive health care. Covers all basic needs, including home health care. It allows you to go to any doctor you want, which many private insurance company programs do not," he said.
- On immigration:
- Sanders, who has referred to President Donald Trump's immigration policies as "heartless," wants to offer a pathway to citizenship to most undocumented immigrants and supports comprehensive immigration reform.
- One of Sanders' top 2020 staffers is an undocumented immigrant living in the US under protections via Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). His campaign has defended this choice against criticism from conservatives.
- Sanders has called for restructuring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stating, "We must not be about tearing small children away from their families."
- During the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Sanders vowed to bring the entire hemisphere together to discuss immigration: "What we will do, the first week we are in the White House, is bring the entire hemisphere together to talk about how we rebuild Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador so people do not have to flee their own countries."
- On climate change:
- Sanders is a co-sponsor of a resolution known as the "Green New Deal," which is a plan to transition the US to 100% clean and renewable energy within the next decade.
- The Vermont senator has been vocal on environmental issues for decades and has criticized the media for not focusing enough on climate change.
- Sanders frequently rails against the fossil fuel industry and has vowed to stop allowing it to "destroy our planet for profit" if he wins the election.
- Sanders unveiled a $16 trillion proposal to combat climate change in late August, which he also called the "Green New Deal." The plan offered more specifics than the congressional proposal.
- The proposal, which is essentially a declaration of war on the fossil fuel industry, is over 13,000 words and calls for the US to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050 and "immediately" end "all new and existing fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands."
- Sanders during a CNN town hall in September said improved access to birth control can help slow global warming as he emphasized the need to discuss population growth in relation to climate.
- On campaign finance:
- Sanders has zeroed-in on campaign finance reform for years.
- Sanders gained popularity in 2016 by refusing corporate donations and looking to small donors to fund his presidential campaign. He's continuing with this policy in 2020.
- He's pushed for a constitutional amendment that would "effectively prevent corporations from bankrolling election campaigns, and would give Congress and the states explicit authority to regulate campaign finances."
- Sanders has referred to Citizens United as "one of the worst decisions ever brought about by the Supreme Court of this country."
- On abortion:
- Sanders has said "abortion is health care" and "the decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government."
- He believes abortion should be legal and in 2018 voted against a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks.
- "We must stand up and fight any and all attempts to undercut Roe v. Wade," Sanders said in a November 2018 tweet. "We must protect and expand a woman's right to abortion and reproductive health care services."
- Sanders says he opposes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from going toward abortion services.
- "If we believe that a woman has the constitutional right to control her own body, that right must apply to ALL women, including low-income women," Sanders said on June 6. "That is why I have consistently voted against the Hyde Amendment and, why as president, I would eliminate it."
- On LGBTQ rights:
- Sanders has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ community.
- In 1983, as mayor of Vermont, he signed a Gay Pride Day proclamation. He voted against Don't Ask Don't Tell in 1993 and supported civil unions in Vermont in 2000.
- He was one of 67 members in the House to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. He spoke out in favor of gay marriage as early as 2009.
- Sanders opposes laws that prevent transgender people from using bathrooms of their choice, declaring that "transgender discrimination has no place in the world."
- Sanders also opposes Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the US military.
- On education:
- Sanders supports making public college and universities tuition-free for undergraduate students.
- Unders Sanders' College for All Act, the federal government would cover 67% of this cost, while the states would be responsible for the remaining 33% of the cost.
- Sanders has also pushed for drastically lowering student loan interest rates, stating it's "revolting" the federal government makes "billions in profits off of student loans each year."
- On Supreme Court and congressional issues:
- While other 2020 Democrats have expressed support for increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court, Sanders has not been particularly outspoken about this.
- "My worry is that the next time the Republicans are in power they will do the same thing," Sanders said on court packing. "So I think that is not the ultimate solution."
- Sanders said he's open to some form of term limits for Supreme Court justices.
- "What may make sense is, if not term limits, then rotating judges to the appeals court as well," Sanders said in early April 2019. "Letting them get out of the Supreme Court and bringing in new blood."
- Sanders biggest concern with the Supreme Court is appointing a justice who would support overturning Citizens United.
- Sanders has expressed reservations about eliminating the legislative filibuster, which other 2020 Democrats have said they're open to discussion. "I'm not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster," Sanders said in February.
- Sanders in early April shifted somewhat on the issue of the filibuster. "In the Senate we must enact real filibuster reform, including the return to requiring a talking filibuster," he said. "It is not right that one Senate can grind the entire process to a halt."
- On guns:
- Sanders has called for banning assault weapons and supports universal background checks.
- Sanders has faced attacks from some Democrats in the past for not always supporting more restrictive gun control measures. He's from a state with a large rural population and a fairly high percentage of gun owners.
- On criminal justice reform:
- Sanders has been outspoken on mass incarceration for many years, but did vote for a 1994 crime bill that many critics feel made the problem worse.
- Sanders has repeatedly said the US should invest more in jobs and education than incarcerating people.
- He's called for an end to the war on drugs, and is in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level.
- The senator wants to end private prisons and cash bail.
- Sanders has described America's criminal justice system as "racist," stating that "far too many of our black brothers and sisters end up dead at the hands of law enforcement."
- Sanders believes people with felony records should be allowed to vote and supports extending voting rights to people who are currently incarcerated.
- On trade:
- Sanders opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump withdrew the US from in 2017.
- Sanders has pushed for trade policy that "is fair to American workers, not just large multi-national corporations."
- He routinely speaks out against the exploitation of low-wage workers in foreign countries, and the impact this has on the job market in the US.
- Sanders is against Trump's tariffs against Canada and the European Union, but has expressed support for imposing "stiff penalties on countries like China, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam to prevent them from illegally dumping steel and aluminum into the US and throughout the world."
- Sanders has said Trump is right about the problem with trade with countries like China but has called for a more "comprehensive approach."
- "We need to fundamentally rethink our trade policies and move to fair trade rather than just unfettered free trade," Sanders said in March 2018.
- Sanders in May introduced a plan to break up agriculture monopolies.
- On foreign policy:
- Sanders voted against the 2003 Iraq War, which he often points to as a defining moment in his career. He's generally against US intervention, and only supports war as a last resort.
- Sanders is strongly in favor of a foreign policy that involves working with the international community to solve global crises. He also wants to drastically cut US defense spending.
- He opposed Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
- Sanders led the charge in the Senate for the US to end support the Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict.
- Sanders has been critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, but still supports the historic US-Israel partnership.
- "It is no longer good enough for us simply to be pro-Israel. I am pro-Israel. But we must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve," Sanders said during the fifth Democratic presidential debate on November 20.
- Sanders has faced criticism for praising dictatorial socialist regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
- More recently, he has caught flak for not being more forceful in condemning Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.
- Sanders opposes "endless" wars and wants to see conflicts like the Afghanistan War come to a conclusion.
- Sanders wants to drastically decrease defense spending. He was one of 10 senators who voted against a $716 billion defense budget for 2019.
- "I think we have to get our priorities right, and our priorities should include not spending more than the 10 next nations on earth. As president, I would certainly look at a very different military budget," Sanders told Vox in May.
- "As a young person, long before I ever held any position, I was active in opposition to the war in Vietnam," Sanders told The New York Times in May. "As a mayor, I did my best to stop American foreign policy, which for years was overthrowing governments in Latin America and installing puppet regimes."
- During the July Democratic primary debate, Sanders assailed the costly war on terror and said the US should double down on diplomacy instead of waging war. "I will not vote for, a $715 billion military budget more than the ten next countries combined. What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy and ending conflicts by people sitting at a table," he said.
- On taxes:
- Sanders is strongly in favor of taxing the wealthy to address inequality, calling on millionaires and billionaires to "pay their fair share."
- He's proposed a plan that would implement a 77 percent rate on billionaires' estates. Sanders would tax the estates of those who inherit more than $3.5 million,
- Sanders has railed against major companies like Amazon, Netflix, and GM paying "nothing" in federal income taxes.
- Sanders has also pledged to target offshore tax havens.
- Sanders on October 14 released a plan — the Corporate Accountability and Democracy Plan — to raise the corporate tax rate back up to 35% from 21%. The plan would also eliminate off-shore tax havens.
- Additionally, the plan calls for workers to directly elect at least 45% of the board of directors at all publicly traded companies as well as privately owned companies with at least $100 million in revenue.
- It would also require all publicly traded companies to provide at least 2% of stock to their workers every year until the company is at least 20% owned by employees. This would apply to corporations with at least $100 million in annual revenue and corporations with at least $100 million in balance sheet total.
What are Bernie Sanders' political successes?
- Sanders' key policy positions, once considered radical, were made mainstream via the popularity of his 2016 campaign.
- In 2016, the Democratic Party adopted the most progressive platform in its history. Today, many Democratic candidates are running on ideas popularized by Sanders.
- Sanders has helped energize young voters, gaining more of the youth vote in 2016 than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.
- Sanders is the longest serving independent in the history of the US Congress, and the first Jewish politician to win a presidential nominating contest.
How much money has Bernie Sanders raised?
- Just 10 hours after he announced, Sanders had already raised more than $4 million from nearly 150,000 individual donors.
- He raised $6 million in the 24 hours after joining the 2020 presidential race.
- Despite swearing off all private fundraising, Sanders has raised the most money out of any other candidate in the race.
- In 2019's third quarter, Sanders brought in $25.2 million in grassroots donations and reported a whopping $33 in cash-on-hand, the most of any candidate.
- On November 19, the Sanders campaign announced they had secured four million individual donations to their campaign.
How is Bernie Sanders viewed by voters compared to the competition?
Insider has conducted a number of other polls to check in on how these candidates are perceived in comparison to one another. When we asked respondents to one poll to rank how far to the left or to the right they considered the candidates, Bernie Sanders was by a long shot viewed as the single most left-leaning candidate in the field. Sanders is the second-most experienced candidate in the field after only Biden when we asked respondents to rank the candidates based on how prepared they are for the rigors of the presidency given what they knew about their history of public service and experience with government. And when asked how likable or personable respondents perceived the candidates to be, Sanders was found to be the third-most likeable in the field, though was considered more likable by men than women.
Could Bernie Sanders beat President Trump?
Referring back to INSIDER's recurring poll, Bernie Sanders overall is believed to be a strong candidate in a general election against Donald Trump compared to your typical Democrat. For a typical candidate, the majority of respondents are undecided about how they think they'd perform, but not Sanders: just shy of half of people who say they'll vote in the Democratic primary think he'd beat Trump, and about a third think he'd lose. That winning percentage is more than twenty points points higher than typical, which is rather good among the 2020 contenders.
How do Democratic voters feel about Bernie Sanders's qualifications?
Insider has conducted polling about how voters feel about candidate attributes or qualifications. We asked respondents about a list of possible qualifications and if they made them more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate for president.
For example, among respondents who said they'd vote in the Democratic primary, 19% said a candidate being a college professor made them likelier to support them, while 4% said it made them less likely to, for a +15% net favorability. We can then see how different candidates' resumes stack up compared to those preferences.
Attributes perceived as most valuable include released tax returns (+43%), status as a Senator (+40%), that he grew up poor (+28%), history as an activist (+28%), his 20+ years of government service (+21%), status as a child of immigrants (+21%), and identity as a Democratic socialist (+18%).
Attributes considered to be a liability based on the preferences of self-reported Democratic voters include vote for 1994 crime bill (-8%), and his age of 70 or over (-24%).
Read more of our best stories on Bernie Sanders:
- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the 2020 progressive standard-bearers. Here's where they disagree on policy
- Two-thirds of Bernie Sanders supporters also would support Elizabeth Warren if she's the nominee
- Bernie Sanders ramps up criticism of Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for All plan, calling it 'quite a hit' for average workers
- Obama indirectly rebukes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by warning donors not to be 'deluded' into thinking voters want radical change
- Here's the difference between a 'socialist' and a 'Democratic socialist'