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Dem 2020 Race Continues to Shift

Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

Support is firming up, but many still open to changing their support

West Long Branch, NJ – Former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren continue to top the leaderboard in Iowa, although their relative positions have shifted in the fourth Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has also made gains from prior polls, but remains outside of the top tier of contenders for now. A majority of supporters of the top tier candidates indicate they are set on their choices, but a sizable number say there is at least a moderate possibility they could still change their minds.  The poll also finds that 6-in-10 likely caucusgoers oppose switching their state’s presidential nominating contest to a primary election.

Four candidates are currently vying for the top spot in next month’s Iowa caucuses – Biden (24%), Sanders (18%), Buttigieg (17%), and Warren (15%). Compared with Monmouth’s November poll, Biden has gained 5 points (up from 19%) and Sanders has gained 5 points (up from 13%), while Buttigieg has lost 5 points (down from 22%) and Warren has declined by 3 points (down from 18%).  Klobuchar is knocking on the door of the top tier with 8% support in the current poll (up from 5% in November).

Most of the demographic shifts since November are within the poll’s margin of error, but there was a particularly notable swing among voters age 65 and older away from Buttigieg (11% now, 26% in November) and toward Biden (44% now, 29% in November). Klobuchar has also gained support among these older voters (13% now, 5% in November).

“A plurality of older voters line up behind Biden, but others in that age group seem to be looking for a fresher face. They appear to be split between Buttigieg and Klobuchar right now,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Other candidates register single digit support among likely caucusgoers, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (4%), former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer (4%), entrepreneur Andrew Yang (3%), and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (2%). Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick earn less than 1% support. [Note: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not included in the poll because he has indicated he will not participate in the Iowa caucus process.]  [With supporters of Booker – who dropped out after the poll was conducted – assigned to their second choice, the race stands at Biden 25%, Sanders 18%, Buttigieg 17%, Warren 16%, and Klobuchar 9%.]

A growing number of Iowa caucusgoers (43%) are firmly decided on their candidate choice. This is up from 28% who said the same in November.  Another 13% say they are open to changing their minds but there is only a low possibility they will actually switch their support (up from 8% in November). Currently, 4 in 10 voters still say there is at least a moderate chance they will support a different candidate on caucus night, including 11% who say this is a high possibility (down from 16% in November) and 28% who say this is a moderate possibility (down from 37%).  In November, Sanders was the only leading candidate with a majority of his supporters saying their choice was basically set. Now he is joined by the other top tier contenders, with a majority of their backers registering solid support, starting with Biden at 65% who are firm or have a low possibility of switching, Sanders at 61%, Buttigieg 59%, and Warren at 53%.

“Even among the top contenders, about 4 in 10 supporters are still open to changing their initial preference by caucus night. There are only three weeks to go, but this race is far from over,” said Murray.

The poll asked caucusgoers to name a candidate they have in mind as a second choice. When these are combined with initial preferences, Warren (38%), Biden (34%), Buttigieg (32%), and Sanders (32%) are bunched together.  They are trailed by Klobuchar (18%), Steyer (8%), Booker (7%), Yang (7%), and Gabbard (3%) as either a first or second choice.

Candidates are not eligible for convention delegates unless they reach a 15% viability threshold at individual caucus sites. Only four candidates currently exhibit statewide support at this level. When likely caucusgoers are asked to choose from among these four names only, the race is very close with Biden at 28%, Buttigieg at 25%, Sanders at 24%, and Warren at 16%.

“The Iowa Democratic Party is supposed to report multiple results on caucus night, adding an initial preference count to the delegate tally they have always released. We could potentially see a clear winner in one set of numbers and a much muddier picture in the other,” said Murray.

Candidate favorability rating for Buttigieg has declined slightly since Monmouth’s last Iowa poll, now standing at 71% favorable and 17% unfavorable (compared with 73%-10% in November). Biden’s net rating has remained fairly steady at 66% favorable and 28% unfavorable (compared with 65%-26%). However, six other candidates included in the poll saw their net ratings go up. These include Warren at 73%-19% (from 69%-23% in November), Klobuchar at 63%-16% (from 54%-18%), Sanders at 70%-22% (from 61%-29%), Booker at 58%-16% (from 48%-19%), Yang at 57%-20% (from 39%-24%), and Steyer at 46%-32% (from 33%-29%).

2020 DEMOCRATIC FIELD – IOWA PARTY VOTER OPINION
Net Rating (favorable – unfavorable)
Jan. ’20Nov. ’19Aug. ’19Apr. ’19
Pete Buttigieg +54 +63 +63 +36
Elizabeth Warren +54 +46 +62 +47
Bernie Sanders +48 +32 +25 +41
Amy Klobuchar +47 +36 +33 +41
Cory Booker +42 +29 +42 +38
Joe Biden +38 +39 +52 +64
Andrew Yang +37 +15 n/a +6
Tom Steyer +14 +4 +8 n/a
         

Health care remains the top concern for Iowa caucusgoers in deciding who to support for the Democratic nomination. Currently, 45% name this as one of the most important issues in their vote, which is down slightly from 56% in August.  Other important issues include beating Donald Trump at 18% (15% in August) and climate change at 18% (18% in August). Foreign policy related concerns are also in the second level of issue importance at 16%, which is up from 6% in August.  On the other hand, immigration has fallen off the radar as a key issue (4%, down from 14% in August).

“Recent events in the Middle East seem to have resulted in an uptick in foreign policy concerns among Democratic caucusgoers. It’s still a small number, but it could be helping Biden on the margins,” said Murray.

There has been a debate over the representativeness of the early contests in the Democratic nomination process. Nationally, the party includes voters with different political views as well as diverse races and ethnicities, while the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire have almost entirely non-Hispanic white electorates. Hawkeye State caucusgoers are somewhat divided as to whether the current calendar provides adequate representation to the entire party, with 47% saying the calendar gives some types of Democratic voters more influence than others in the party’s presidential nominating process and 37% saying it gives all types of Democrats an equal voice.

At the same time, most Hawkeye State caucusgoers (68%) feel that states like Iowa and New Hampshire have the right amount of influence on who wins the party’s presidential nomination.  Another 16% say these states have too much influence while 9% counter that they do not have enough influence over the final outcome.  Similarly, 52% say that having Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the nominating process makes little difference one way or the other in the likelihood that the Democratic Party will nominate the best candidate for president.  However, 31% say having these states go first makes it more likely that the Democrats will nominate the best candidate while only 9% say it makes this outcome less likely.  Just over half of Hawkeye State caucusgoers (51%) would be open to the idea of one or two other states holding their presidential contests on the same day as Iowa, while 31% say this would be a bad idea.  Monmouth asked these same questions in a poll of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters released last week and got very similar results.

Most Iowa Democratic caucusgoers oppose switching to a primary system. A majority of 58% say that the state should continue to hold caucuses for the presidential nomination and just 30% support moving to a primary election.

“Despite concerns that in-person caucuses do not allow for broad voter participation and the absence of a virtual caucus process to address that, Iowa Democrats are loyal to their unique system for selecting presidential nominees,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 9 to 12, 2020 with 405 Iowa voters who are likely to attend the Democratic presidential caucuses in February 2020, out of 1,033 registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters who were contacted for the poll.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.  Please note that the trend numbers for the August poll were rebased to exclude voters who would only attend a “virtual” caucus (which is no longer an option).

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                        

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)       

1. If the Democratic caucuses for president were today, would you support – [NAMES WERE ROTATED]?  [If UNDECIDED: If you had to support one of these candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward?]

TREND:  (with leaners) Jan.
2020
Nov.
2019
Aug.
2019**
April
2019
Joe Biden 24% 19% 26% 27%
Bernie Sanders 18% 13% 8% 16%
Pete Buttigieg 17% 22% 8% 9%
Elizabeth Warren 15% 18% 20% 7%
Amy Klobuchar 8% 5% 3% 4%
Cory Booker 4% 2% 1% 3%
Tom Steyer 4% 3% 3% n/a
Andrew Yang 3% 3% 1% 1%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% 2% 1% <1%
Michael Bennet <1% <1% <1% 0%
John Delaney <1% <1% 1% 1%
Deval Patrick 0% n/a n/a n/a
(VOL) Other <1% 5%* 17%* 19%*
(VOL) No one  0% 0% <1% 1%
(VOL) Undecided 5% 8% 10% 12%
   (n) (405) (451) (327) (351)

     * Includes candidates who have since dropped out.

      **Excludes “virtual-only” caucus attendees from August poll.

2. Are you firmly decided on your candidate choice or are you open to the possibility of supporting a different candidate on caucus night?  [If OPEN: Would you rate the possibility of supporting a different candidate as high, moderate, or low?]

TREND:   Jan.
2020
Nov.
2019
Firmly decided 43% 28%
Open, high possibility 11% 16%
Open, moderate possibility 28% 37%
Open, low possibility 13% 8%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 2%
No first choice (from Q1) 5% 8%
  (n) (405) (451)

3. Who would be your second choice if you had to make one?

TREND:  

Jan.
2020
Nov.
2019
Aug.
2019**
April
2019
Elizabeth Warren 23% 17% 18% 10%
Pete Buttigieg 15% 15% 10% 6%
Bernie Sanders 14% 12% 7% 8%
Joe Biden 10% 10% 12% 12%
Amy Klobuchar 10% 9% 2% 3%
Tom Steyer 4% 3% 3% n/a
Andrew Yang 4% 1% 2% <1%
Cory Booker 3% 2% 5% 6%
Tulsi Gabbard 1% 1% 2% 2%
John Delaney <1% 0% 1% <1%
Michael Bennet 0% <1% <1% 0%
Deval Patrick 0% n/a n/a n/a
(VOL) Other <1% 9%* 21%* 26%*
(VOL) No one  6% 3% 3% 10%
(VOL) Undecided 10% 19% 18% 18%
   (n) (405) (451) (327) (351)

     * Includes candidates who have since dropped out.

      **Excludes “virtual-only” caucus attendees from August poll.

4. If the only viable candidates in your caucus site were the following four people who would you caucus for? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

  Jan.
2020
Joe Biden 28%
Bernie Sanders 24%
Elizabeth Warren 16%
Pete Buttigieg 25%
(VOL) None of these/won’t vote 2%
(VOL) Undecided 4%
   (n) (405)

5. I’m going to read you the names of some people who are running for president in 2020.  Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion. If you have not heard of the person, just let me know. [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

TREND:  

Favorable Unfavorable No
opinion
Not
heard of
(n)
Former Vice President Joe Biden 66% 28% 6% 0% (405)
     — November  2019 65% 26% 9% 0% (451)
     — August  2019* 72% 20% 8% 0% (327)
     — April  2019 78% 14% 8% 0% (351)
           
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders 70% 22% 8% 0% (405)
     — November  2019 61% 29% 10% 0% (451)
     — August  2019* 58% 33% 9% 0% (327)
     — April  2019 67% 26% 6% 0% (351)
           
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 73% 19% 8% 1% (405)
     — November  2019 69% 23% 8% 0% (451)
     — August  2019* 76% 14% 8% 1% (327)
     — April  2019 67% 20% 11% 3% (351)
           
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar 63% 16% 14% 8% (405)
     — November  2019 54% 18% 22% 6% (451)
     — August  2019* 51% 18% 26% 5% (327)
     — April  2019 51% 10% 23% 16% (351)
           
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg 71% 17% 9% 3% (405)
     — November  2019 73% 10% 14% 3% (451)
     — August  2019* 72% 9% 15% 4% (327)
     — April  2019 45% 9% 22% 24% (351)
           
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker 58% 16% 22% 4% (405)
     — November  2019 48% 19% 28% 4% (451)
     — August  2019* 58% 16% 25% 1% (327)
     — April  2019 54% 16% 18% 11% (351)
           
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang 57% 20% 20% 3% (405)
     — November  2019 39% 24% 29% 7% (451)
     — August  2019* n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
     — April  2019 15% 9% 34% 42% (351)
           
Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer 46% 32% 22% 1% (405)
     — November  2019 33% 29% 30% 8% (451)
     — August  2019* 33% 25% 26% 15% (327)
     — April  2019 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
           

     * Excludes “virtual-only” caucus attendees from August poll.

6. What are the one or two most important issues to you in deciding who to support for the Democratic nomination? [LIST WAS NOT READ] [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted]

TREND:   Jan.
2020
Aug.
2019*
April
2019
Jobs, unemployment 9% 6% 13%
Bills, food, groceries 1% 1% 1%
College tuition, school costs 4% 4% 3%
Health care 45% 56% 51%
Social Security, seniors 4% 3% 7%
Taxes 5% 8% 7%
Climate change, global warming 18% 18% 17%
Environment, pollution 8% 12% 12%
Opioids, drug use 0% 0% 0%
Safety, crime 1% 2% 1%
Guns, gun control 4% 5% 1%
Terrorism, national security 2% 0% 4%
Immigration 4% 14% 14%
Schools, education 7% 7% 14%
Civil rights 2% 6% 8%
Reproductive rights, women 6% 4% 2%
Honesty, integrity 8% 4% 5%
Competence, experience 6% 4% 3%
Income inequality, wages 9% 6% 2%
Infrastructure 1% 3% 1%
Foreign policy, world standing 16% 6% 3%
Balance budget 5% 4% 1%
Donald Trump, beating Trump 18% 15% 10%
Other 6% 8% 10%
Don’t know 2% 2% 2%
   (n) (405) (327) (351)

      * Excludes “virtual-only” caucus attendees from August poll.

7. Do you think voters in states like Iowa and New Hampshire have too much influence on who wins the party nominations for president, not enough influence, or about the right amount of influence on who wins the party nominations for president?

  Jan.
2020
Too much influence 16%
Not enough influence 9%
Right amount of influence 68%
(VOL) Don’t know 7%
   (n) (405)

8. Do you think having Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the nominating process makes it more likely or less likely that the Democratic Party will nominate the best candidate for president, or do you think having those states go first makes little difference in the likelihood that Democrats will nominate the best candidate?

  Jan.
2020
More likely 31%
Less likely 9%
Little difference 52%
(VOL) Don’t know 8%
   (n) (405)

9. Nationally, the Democratic Party includes voters with different political views, races and ethnicities, and other characteristics. Does the current presidential primary calendar give all types of Democratic voters an equal voice in the party’s presidential nomination process or does the calendar give some types of voters more influence than others? [If MORE INFLUENCE:  Is that a lot more influence or just a little more?]

  Jan.
2020
Gives all an equal voice 37%
Some have a lot more influence 14%
Some have a little more influence 20%
Some have more influence, not sure how much 13%
(VOL) Don’t know 17%
   (n) (405)

10. Do you think it would be a good idea or bad idea to allow one or two other states to hold their presidential primary or caucuses on the same day as Iowa?

  Jan.
2020
Good idea 51%
Bad idea 31%
(VOL) Depends 7%
(VOL) Don’t know 12%
   (n) (405)

11. Do you think Iowa should continue to hold caucuses for the presidential nomination process or should it switch to a primary?

  Jan.
2020
Continue to hold caucuses 58%
Switch to a primary 30%
(VOL) Depends 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 9%
   (n) (405)

12. Will this be your first presidential caucus or have you attended the Iowa presidential caucuses in the past? [If ATTENDED IN PAST:  Was that a Republican or a Democratic caucus, or both?]

TREND:   Jan.
2020
Nov.
2019
Aug.
2019*
First caucus 17% 14% 9%
Attended Republican caucus in past 1% 2% 1%
Attended Democratic caucus in past 69% 73% 80%
Attended both caucuses in the past 12% 11% 10%
(VOL) Don’t Know 1% 1% 1%
   (n) (405) (451) (327)

     * Excludes “virtual-only” caucus attendees from August poll.

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 9 to 12, 2020 with a statewide random sample of 1,033 Iowa voters drawn from a list of registered Democratic and unaffiliated voters who voted in at least one of the last two state primary elections or the 2018 general election or have registered to vote since November 2018. This includes 471 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 562 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Results are based on 405 voters who are likely to attend the Democratic presidential caucuses in February 2020. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for age, gender, race, and education based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the sample of likely Democratic caucusgoers, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
 
42% Male
58% Female
 
19% 18-34
21% 35-49
31% 50-64
28% 65+
 
93% White, non-Hispanic
  7% Other race, Hispanic
 
58% No degree
42% 4 year degree
 

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs