Poll: American Voters Opposed To Superdelegate Systems

| by Robert Fowler
Republican & Democrat symbolsRepublican & Democrat symbols

New polling signals that most American voters want a major overhaul of both political parties' primary processes. The survey results show that respondents want more open primaries and fewer caucuses while a majority believe superdelegates should be retired.

On May 31, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released new results of a poll asking respondents about how they perceive both the Democratic and Republican primary processes.

Of respondents, 38 percent agreed they did not have confidence the Democratic Party’s primary process while 44 percent had no confidence in how the GOP conducts its primary. Four in 10 respondents said they had some confidence in both parties’ systems.

Meanwhile, only 17 percent of Republican-leaning respondents and 31 percent of Democratic-leaning respondents agreed to having great confidence in their party systems.

Of those polled, 69 percent favored open primaries while 29 percent sided with closed primaries, or primaries where only registered party members can cast a vote.

In terms of voting method, 81 percent preferred primaries over caucuses, while only 17 favored the time-consuming and generally more exclusive caucus contest.

One deeply unpopular primary process is the use of superdelegates in the Democratic Party. Accounting for 15 percent of total delegates in the Democratic primary, superdelegates are comprised of party insiders and leaders.

Of those polled, 53 percent view superdelegates as a bad idea while only 17 percent endorse their existence. Among Democratic voters, 46 percent are against superdelegates while only 25 percent are supportive.

Superdelegates were established in 1982 as a last resort measure to avoid a toxic general election candidate for the Democratic party. More than 30 years later, they have become a controversial party mechanism.

“Every Democrat I have talked to finds the unpledged delegate system offensive,” superdelegate Larry Taylor of Oregon said, reports Politico. “I don’t think my vote ... should invalidate the vote of thousands of voters.”

Superdelegates have yet to override the will of voters, with their majority historically corresponding with whoever wins the most pledged delegates during the Democratic primary.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has called for reform to how the party conducts its primary.

While the senator is currently appealing to superdelegates to abandon former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and help give him the nomination, Sanders has continuously implied that he is losing in the pledged delegate race due to the primary system.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘rigged’ because we knew what the rules were -- but what is really dumb is that you have closed primaries ... You have a situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast,” Sanders told CBS News.

“That’s not rigged, I think it’s just a dumb process, which has certainly disadvantaged our campaign,” Sanders concluded.

Sources: AP, New York Magazine, Politico Magazine / Photo credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr

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