Liberals and Hillary, sitting in a tree. V-O-T-I-N-G.

June 27

The prospect that political juggernaut Hillary Clinton could lose a campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination in a "David slays Goliath" tale is an irresistible narrative. But data have a way of deflating creative speculation, and a growing mountain of evidence undercuts the notion that liberal Democrats are yearning for an Elizabeth Warren-esque alternative.


Hillary Clinton is most popular among Democrats' liberal base. (Linda Davidson/Washington Post)

That mountain got bigger Thursday, with a massive Pew Research Center survey showing the most leftist people in America  are huge fans of the former Secretary of State - fully 88 percent of "Solid Liberals" have a favorable impression of Clinton. This is a group Pew describes as expressing "liberal attitudes across almost every realm -- government, the economy and business and foreign policy, as well as on race, homosexuality and abortion."

But beyond Clinton's well-established popularity among Democrats and liberals (which my Fix colleague Aaron Blake has documented at length), the Pew survey reveals Clinton's strongest supporters also are a group who figures to have a super-sized voice in picking the Democratic nominee. Take the following two charts:

1. In the first, solid liberals are more likely to say they vote regularly than other Democratic-leaning groups.

2. Solid liberals are the most likely Democratic-leaning group to make campaign donations, volunteer for campaigns and attend campaign events.

Clinton's current strength among highly engaged liberals made me wonder how much ideology played a role in her 2008 campaign. Did liberals feign support for Clinton only to jump ship for Barack Obama's inspiring rhetoric and opposition to the Iraq war?

Not quite. Exit polls in 23 states found Clinton winning 43 percent of "very liberal" Democratic voters on average, barely below her 47 percent support among moderates and similar to her 44 percent among conservatives. (Obama won 51 percent of "very liberal" Democrats.) Clinton's deficit among African Americans - she won just 16 percent of their votes - was far more consequential.

Of course, liberals' attitudes toward Clinton can change in the 18 months until the Democratic primaries, especially as media cover her more and more closely. But a mass rejection from national Democratic leaders and activists may be necessary to sway liberals across the country who today are big Clinton fans.

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Philip Bump · June 27