Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate at the University of Michigan in Flint on Sunday. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Despite apparent tension between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders --  including a heated exchange in a debate in Michigan before the primary there on Tuesday -- recent surveys suggest that Democratic voters remain firmly united as a party and would stand behind either candidate in a general election. The data on the state of the party is a striking contrast to the chaos that threatens to overwhelm Republicans, especially after another good day at the polls for Donald Trump.

By a narrow margin, Democrats in Michigan gave Sanders a much-needed victory Tuesday. The election followed a debate between the two candidates in Flint on Sunday, during Sanders snapped at Clinton when she interrupted his explanation of his views on the auto industry

"Excuse me, I'm talking," Sanders said.

These pointed disagreements aside, both Sanders's and Clinton's supporters in Michigan had good things to say about their candidate's opponent.

Bernie Sanders won Michigan on March 8 by getting votes from several key groups. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Large majorities told pollsters they would be satisfied with either candidate as a nominee for the party -- 63 percent for Clinton and 73 percent for Sanders, according to an exit poll by the Associated Press and major television networks.

Also, 59 percent of voters in the poll said they thought Clinton's policies were "about right" -- neither too liberal nor too conservative -- and 65 percent said the same Sanders's policies. A majority of voters said they would trust both candidates to handle race relations.

Likewise, most voters viewed both candidates as honest and trustworthy (57 percent for Clinton and 80 percent for Sanders) and as having the right approach to business (57 percent for Clinton and 63 percent for Sanders).

That these figures are more favorable for Sanders is unsurprising, given his overall success with Democrats in Michigan, but the data from states where Clinton won by large margins reveal a similar pattern.

Take Virginia, where Clinton finished with 64 percent of the vote on March 1. Still, 65 percent of Democrats in Virginia would be satisfied with Sanders as a nominee, according to an exit poll by The Washington Post and other media organizations. Fifty-four percent said Sanders's policies were neither too liberal nor too conservative, and 58 percent said that both candidates shared their values.

The Post's most recent national survey with ABC News corroborates these local results. In a hypothetical contest between Clinton and Trump, the two likely nominees, 86 percent of Democrats would vote for Clinton. Nine percent would cast ballots for Trump, and the remainder said they wouldn't vote or had no opinion.

By contrast, just 75 percent of Republicans would choose Trump over Clinton. Fourteen percent would vote for Clinton, and more than one in ten Republicans wouldn't vote or said they had no opinion.


That only three in four Republicans are prepared to stand behind Trump in a general election indicates how intensely the party's is divided. The polls from Michigan and other states bear out these results -- while Trump won in Michigan with 42 percent of the vote, just half of Republicans there say they would be satisfied if he were the party's nominee, according to the exit poll.

Those divisions contribute to Clinton's wide margin over Trump in a hypothetical contest between the two of them. Among all registered voters in The Post's national poll, she leads Trump by 9 percentage points.