Rank-and-file Democrats are virtually split by age between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton nationwide, according to a new PRRI / The Atlantic poll.

The Atlantic reports:

Sanders had the support of 47 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters while Clinton had 46 percent—a narrow gap that fell within the poll’s 2.5 percent margin of error. The national survey was conducted in the days before the Vermont senator handily defeated the former secretary of state in the Wisconsin primary, and it tracks other polls in the last week that found Sanders erasing Clinton’s edge across the country. In a poll that PRRI conducted in January, Clinton had a 20-point lead.

Democrats are sharply divided by age and by party loyalty. Sanders is strongly preferred by younger voters, both women and men, while Clinton does better with older voters and those who closely identify with the Democratic Party. Sanders, by contrast, runs strong among weaker partisans and independents—a finding that has also been reflected in exit polls taken after people have already cast their votes.

The gap in party loyalty might explain why Clinton has been highlighting Sanders’s tenuous past connection to the Democratic Party in recent days. “He’s a relatively new Democrat,” Clinton told Politico’s Glenn Thrush in a podcast interview published on Wednesday. “I’m not even sure he is one.” She repeated the message in two separate television interviews later in the morning. “Senator Sanders, by his own admission, has never even been a Democrat,” she said on CNN. Sanders describes himself as a Democratic socialist and has won election in Vermont as an independent, although he caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. He considered running for president as an independent before determining he had a better chance of spreading his message in the Democratic primary.

Clinton has a 21-point advantage among Democrats with a strong attachment to the party, the poll found, while Sanders leads 61 percent to 32 percent among Democratic-leaning independents. The age gap was equally as large. Nearly three-quarters of voters ages 18-29 backed Sanders, and two-thirds of seniors support Clinton. Sanders’s strength among younger voters has allowed him to close Clinton’s lead with women; 46 percent back her to 44 percent for Sanders. Only one-third of women under the age of 50 want Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, the poll found. “It really is age more than gender that makes the difference here,” said Robert P. Jones, who directed the poll for the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank. Sanders leads by nine points among white Democrats, while Clinton has a nearly two-to-one edge among African Americans. The candidates are essentially tied among Hispanic Democrats.

View charts illustrating the data here.

Truthdig on Thursday reported that Bernie Sanders countered Hillary Clinton’s claim that he’s not qualified to be president.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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