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Sen. Bernie Sanders has staked out some of the furthest-left positions of any recent presidential candidate, but can he get the public to back them? Polls show that some of his ideas may be too progressive for many Americans … but others are downright popular. Can you guess which are which?
Let’s start with an easy one. Sanders wants to legalize recreational marijuana across the country, while Biden wants to decriminalize it on the federal level — so violations would come with penalties like fines instead of jail time — and let the states decide on legalization.
Medicare for All emerged early on as a major dividing line in the primary. Biden opposes it, preferring to offer patients a public option in addition to their current health-insurance choices. But Sanders is the standard-bearer for an aggressive Medicare-for-All plan, arguing that government-run health insurance should essentially replace private insurance.
One of Sanders’s most attention-grabbing campaign promises is “free college”; essentially, the government would not charge tuition to students attending public colleges and universities. Let’s see how popular it is among the general public.
Sanders also supports a tax on extreme wealth, an idea popularized this election by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. As far as we know, no polls have asked about the specific details of Sanders’s proposed tax, which starts with a 1 percent tax on net worth above $32 million for a married couple and gets gradually steeper the richer you are. But take a stab at guessing how the general public felt about the details of Warren’s wealth tax.
In the first Democratic primary debate, Sanders was among the many candidates who raised their hands when asked if they supported making illegal border crossings a civil, rather than criminal, offense, meaning people would no longer face jail time, though they could still be deported for the civil violation. However, Biden says he would maintain the status quo. Let’s see which side Americans come down on.
OK, last one. Author Marianne Williamson and billionaire Tom Steyer were the two loudest voices in the field arguing that the U.S. government should pay reparations for slavery. Biden and Sanders, however, have mostly steered clear of the issue, although they’re in favor of at least studying what a reparations plan might look like.
As much as Sanders’s ideas may seem radical, not all of them are unpopular with the people who will decide the November election. And on some issues, it is Biden, not Sanders, who is out of the mainstream. So if Democratic primary voters are worried about which positions would be the most broadly palatable in the general election, the answer isn’t necessarily the most moderate ones.