Pollster: 'Death knell' to label yourself a 'socialist' in the midterms

A pollster argued Tuesday that midterm candidates labeling themselves as "socialists" could undermine their chances of success in November.

"When it comes to national elections, the midterms, labeling yourself as a socialist is probably the death knell. You don't want to do that," HarrisX CEO Dritan Nesho told Hill.TV's Joe Concha on "What America's Thinking."

Nesho was commenting on a new Hill.TV/HarrisX American Barometer poll showing that 76 percent of respondents would not vote for a candidate who identified as “socialist.”

Among Democratic respondents, 64 percent said they would not vote for a self-described socialist. Among those who said they voted for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE in 2016, 59 percent said they would not support a socialist.

"The concept of entitlement that we see in the political sphere, they are a Democratic phenomenon and the fact that Hillary Clinton voters over-indexed on answering yes that they would vote for a socialist for elected office shows that there's this strain, this far-left strain within the Democratic Party," Nesho said. 

"[A strain] that started with [Bernie] Sanders that is still active, and still part of the resistance, and can tip any primary election one way or another." 

The poll comes amid debate over the direction of the Democratic Party after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, sailed to victory in a stunning Democratic primary last month, defeating longtime Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

Some Democrats have pushed back on those reading into Ocasio-Cortez's win as indicative of something broader happening within the party.

“I think it's the future of the party in the Bronx, where she is,” Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault Overnight Defense: General accused of sexual assault to get confirmation hearing | Senate to vote Monday on overriding Saudi arms deal veto | Next Joint Chiefs chair confirmed | Graham tries to ease Turkey tensions MORE (D-Ill.) said in an interview earlier this month.

Duckworth warned against Democrats shifting "too far to the left," saying that Ocasio-Cortez does not represent the future of the party in the country as a whole. 

“I think that you can’t win the White House without the Midwest and I don’t think you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest," she said.

— Julia Manchester