In last week's debate hosted by MSNBC, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders confronted each other over which candidate was the true "progressive." Clinton characterized a progressive as someone who "makes progress" on issues, whereas Sanders interpreted a progressive as someone who will "wage political revolution."
Which candidate embodies the progressive brand better may be important in 2016. Last week in Iowa, the NBC News Entrance Poll found that 28 percent of Democratic caucus-goers identified as "very liberal" — up 10 points from 2008. Overall, 68 percent of Iowa Democrats identified as liberal, a 14-point increase from eight years ago. Tonight, we're seeing a similar rise in the number of liberals in New Hampshire. In 2008 in New Hampshire, 20 percent identified as "very liberal" — this year, 26 percent see themselves that way. Overall, liberals in the New Hampshire Democratic primary are up from 56 percent in 2008 to 68 percent today.
And Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire see ideological distinctions between the two candidates. The NBC News Exit Poll finds that half (54 percent) of New Hampshire Democrats generally feel Clinton is "about right" on the issues. Still, a sizeable portion — 32 percent — thinks Clinton is "not liberal enough." Only 9 percent think Clinton is "too liberal."
A larger number of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters say Sanders' positions on issues are "about right" — 67 percent find his policy stance to be a good fit. But 27 percent find that the self-proclaimed "democratic socialist" is "too liberal" for them.
We'll continue to watch this voting bloc to see if this trend continues in upcoming states like Nevada and South Carolina.