Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are in a dead heat both nationwide and in Nevada—the next Democratic caucus state and a supposed Clinton stronghold—two polls released Wednesday find.
Nationally, 44 percent of likely Democratic voters support Clinton, and 42 percent support Sanders, with 11 percent undecided, a Quinnipiac University poll found. Respondents said they saw Clinton as having more leadership experience and Sanders as being more trustworthy and honest.
"Sen. Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton are neck and neck," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "But while Bernie has the trust, Hillary has the experience. Two different measurements of two dissimilar candidates."
In the unpredictable caucus state of Nevada, a CNN/ORC survey found a similarly narrow split, with likely caucusgoers in the Silver State supporting Clinton 48 percent and Sanders 47 percent.
In a state still grappling with the effects of the 2008 recession, Nevadans are especially concerned with the economy—an issue in which they favor Sanders—but the poll also found one exceptional factor that makes Saturday's contest harder than usual to predict: diversity of voters.
Although the pool of potential caucusgoers in Nevada is more racially diverse than those who participated in Iowa or New Hampshire, the racial divide among likely caucusgoers isn't nearly as stark as among voters in South Carolina, with both white and non-white voters about evenly divided between the two candidates.
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Clinton had a head start in campaigning, opening up offices in the state months before Sanders—but as the Las Vegas-based political analyst Jon Ralston wrote for the Washington Post on Tuesday, the Clinton camp seems to be growing concerned "about a place once considered a lock for her."
"It is a lock no more," Ralston wrote. "[B]uoyed by his landslide victory in New Hampshire, Sanders believes what would previously have been unthinkable: He could win here. The Clinton panic is palpable."
Still, with Clinton still claiming a narrow lead, the Sanders campaign knows it's in for an uphill climb, Bloomberg reports:
For Sanders, it will be the best test so far of whether the enthusiasm he’s generating, especially among young people, first-time voters and Latinos, can beat her. If it works in Nevada, it’s a model that could help him extend the nominating contest for months. If it doesn’t, it could signal the difficulties Sanders’ insurgency would have going forward against Clinton.
Tick Segerblom, a state Senator and former Nevada Democratic Party chairman, told Bloomberg, "If Bernie is able to match her, it really shows on his part that he has just really tapped into something. I never dreamed, frankly, that the word 'socialism' would actually be acceptable."
The Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 563 Democrats between February 10-15, has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. The CNN/ORC poll, which surveyed 282 likely Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada from February 10-15, has a margin of error of 6 percentage points.