(CN) – Amid the second round of Democratic primary debates, the public at large sees a party that is deeply divided as it searches for the best way to unseat a deeply unpopular president.
The latest The Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday showed 41% of the 1,500 U.S. citizens polled say the Democratic Party is more divided than usual. Only 14% say it is more united and 29% find it about the same.
The poll comes as the Democratic Party continues to mull whether the best opportunity to confront President Donald Trump is by energizing a base hungry for more progressive ideas, or to tack calmly toward the center and position itself as a more reasonable and decent alternative to the combative president.
However, the poll numbers could reflect some wishful thinking on behalf of Republicans, who presumably relish the idea of a bitterly divided Democratic Party beset by infighting and acrimony.
Republicans saw the Democratic Party as more divided to the tune of 59%, compared to only 22% of Democrats and 40% of independents. The majority of Democrats see the fights on the debate stage and on Twitter as business as usual (41%).
The public sees the Republican Party as more or less the same in terms of intraparty division according to the poll, with 37% saying the division is about the same as usual, 27% calling the party more united and only 19% saying Republicans are more divided than usual. Those numbers hewed roughly to the pattern regardless of party preference.
Before Republicans stretch for the victory lap, polls suggest Democrats are particularly keen to rally around whichever candidate grabs the nomination come next summer.
Overall, 63% of Democratic voters said they prefer to nominate someone who can win the general election compared to 37% who say they want the nominee to reflect their position on most issues.
The person most likely to do that at this point is Barack Obama’s former vice president.
Joe Biden continues to be the favorite of voters registered with the Democratic Party, with 26% of those polled saying he is their first choice. Elizabeth Warren came in second with 18% and Bernie Sanders third with 13%. No other candidate managed more than 10%, and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg was the only candidate with at least 5% from voters.
Democrats garnered more good news as the poll found 48% of respondents would vote Democratic next year, compared to 37% who plan to vote for Republicans and 11% who said they were not sure.
The 11-point difference in the generic congressional vote question is the largest margin in many weeks, 4 points larger than early this month than when Democrats held a 7-point advantage.
Democrats are widely predicted to hold onto the House of Representatives but face an uphill battle to regain the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.
The poll involved 1,500 respondents, 1,101 of whom are registered voters. The margin of error is 2.6% plus or minus overall and 3.1% for registered voters.