Americans Split on Idea of Brokered Democratic Convention

(CN) – With the Democratic primary race essentially whittled down to a two-person race between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the fight for delegates intensifies, a poll indicates voters are split on whether the candidates need to reach the 1,991-delegate threshold required to secure the party’s nomination.

A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Thursday reveals that around half of registered voters believe that in order to become the presidential nominee for the Democratic party, a candidate must have a majority of the delegates at the convention. This stance is in line with the current rules of the Democratic party platform, which require a candidate to have secured at least 1,991 delegates – a simple majority – to be nominated.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Other voters, however, believe these rules should be tweaked. Just over a quarter of voters say the candidate with the most delegates should be party’s nominee regardless of the number of delegates they’ve won.

The two leading candidates have made their positions on this matter clear in recent weeks. Biden has said in previous debates that he believes that the rules of Democratic nomination process should be allowed to play out as written, while Sanders has said he believes the candidate with the most votes should be the one to face President Donald Trump in the general election.

The poll comes amid talks on the likelihood of a contested Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this summer in the event neither candidate hits the critical 1,991-delegate threshold. In that case, the campaigns would be forced to engage in a convention floor fight for delegates yet to be locked in.

It is worth noting that fears of contested conventions are nothing new in politics. Just last election cycle, the Republican party was gearing up for the likelihood of a contested contest as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and then-Ohio Governor John Kasich seemed prepared to fight the nomination of Donald Trump all the way to the convention floor. Kasich, somewhat notoriously, was vocal about structuring his entire campaign endgame on such an eventuality.

Despite frequent speculation of contested conventions, the last time one actually occurred was in 1952.

One crucial aspect of this debate is what role will be played by superdelegates – unbound members of the Democratic Party who can cast delegates for whichever candidate they wish after the first round of voting does not produce a delegate-majority candidate.

While Sanders has frequently warned against the influence of superdelegates, voters have voiced uncertainty on what they think – or even know – regarding their role. The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows 27% of voters did not even understand the role of superdelegates in the Democratic nomination process, and that after being educated on the subject,  39% believe superdelegates have too much influence while 31% suggest they have just the right amount.

Tyler Sinclair, vice president of Morning Consult, said these numbers suggest many Democrats are wary of the influence superdelegates have over the nomination process – even if not all Democrats understand how they work.

“Democrats lack a clear understanding of the superdelegate process in the primary race, but at the same time believe the unpledged delegates have too much control over who wins the nomination,” Sinclair said with the release of the poll. “Only a third of Democrats say they understand the role of superdelegates well. Among the same group, roughly four in 10 say superdelegates have too much power in selecting a nominee.”

While it is far too early to predict if talks of a contested convention will actually pan out, both Biden and Sanders are currently working toward amassing as many delegates as they can ahead of this summer’s convention. According to an NPR delegate tracker, Biden currently has so far captured 603 delegates while Sanders has earned 538, with many more still to be awarded in upcoming contests.

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll surveyed 1,992 registered voters and contains a 2% margin of error.

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