See the closely-watched poll results that indicate candidate strength in the state that kicks off voting in 2020.
Olivia Sun, Des Moines Register
© Copyright 2019, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.
The field of Democratic presidential candidates is starting to settle into tiers: Joe Biden leads the pack, and Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are in close competition for second place, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa Poll shows.
Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers say former vice president Biden is their first choice for president. Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively.
No other candidate cracks double digits. California Sen. Kamala Harris comes closest at 7%, and other numbers within the poll indicate some underlying strengths for her.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke are at 2%.
More of the latest Iowa Poll results and coverage
“We’re starting to see the people who are planning to caucus start to solidify,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of the Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “There’s a lot more commitment than we normally see this early. And some of these candidates who’ve been under the radar start to surface and compete with Joe Biden.”
But many candidates in this historically large field are failing to break into the public consciousness in any meaningful way, she said.
Seven candidates tally 1% support and nine earn no support. Two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — were not listed by a single poll respondent as either first or second choice for president.
“There’s always been a question mark as to how many (candidates) can get any real traction,” Selzer said. “And we gave them every opportunity to show that they have some kind of constituency here. But there’s a fair number who, their constituency just isn’t very big.”
New rules prompt poll changes
For the first time, the Iowa Poll accounts for new rules proposed this year by the Iowa Democratic Party that will allow Iowans to participate in a virtual caucus online or over the phone. The results of those virtual caucuses will account for 10% of the final delegate equivalents, regardless of how many people participate.
The poll, conducted June 2-5, sampled registered voters who plan to attend the Democratic caucuses in person, as well as those who plan to attend virtually.
The poll asked respondents to name their first choice for president. The responses to that question have been combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person participants and 10% to the preferences of virtual participants, as will happen on caucus night. The margin of error for these results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The rest of the results here, except where noted, use only those people who say they will caucus in person, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
Because the Iowa Poll’s methodology has changed, the results are not directly comparable to past Iowa Polls of this presidential field.
Generally, though, Biden and Sanders led the pack in both the December and March Iowa Polls, as they do now.
Buttigieg was largely unknown by likely Democratic caucusgoers in March, the first time he appeared in an Iowa Poll.
“It’s like with the vitriol and the hatred and all the bad things people say — he seems to be coming out fresh,” said Patti Thacker, a Cedar Rapids poll respondent who says Buttigieg is her first choice for president. “He wants to get the country into a new mode and give us new hope there really is something better than what’s been happening.”
But even though she likes Buttigieg’s youth and vision, Thacker said she’s torn. She’s also drawn to Biden, who she says is her second choice for president.
“We need someone to sort of heal the country — to level things out and get us back on track,” she said. “I feel like he can do that on that hand.”
Who’s on your ‘list?’
Joann McCracken Young, a poll respondent and 66-year-old Des Moines resident, says Warren currently is her first choice for president. She likes Warren’s ideas, particularly on health care. But, like many Democrats right now, Young says she keeps a mental list of several candidates she’s considering.
“Joe Biden is certainly on my list,” Young said. “Kamala Harris would be on my list. Beto O’Rourke. Cory Booker. There are a lot of good people running.”
Among those who plan to caucus in person, 61% say Biden is on their list in some way.
Twenty-three percent say he is their first choice for president, 13% say he is their second choice and an additional 25% say they are actively considering him.
Just as many — 61% — say Warren is on their list. That includes 15% who choose her as their first choice, 14% who pick her as their second choice and 32% who say they are considering her.
► Iowa politics delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our free newsletter.
“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer said. “I think that all of the publicity lately and all of the polls lately are so Biden-heavy that for her to have any metric that shows her on par (with him) … it says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”
Only three other candidates amass a majority of respondents using the same measure — being named as first or second choice or being actively considered: 56% for Sanders and 52% each for Buttigieg and Harris.
Booker, a New Jersey senator, is next with 43%, O’Rourke with 39% and Klobuchar with 32%.
Support falls off substantially beyond that and is below 15% for 11 candidates. Candidates must meet a 15% threshold on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020, to remain viable.
Selzer said it’s too early to write off candidates who fall below the 15% viability threshold. However, “Given multiple chances for people to say they’re even thinking about these candidates — there are several who just can’t get into double digits,” she said.
Biden warning signs, Harris upsides
In a March Iowa Poll, almost all data points looked encouraging for Biden, who had yet to enter the race. Now, roughly six weeks into his candidacy, there is at least one sign of potential weakness.
Among those who list Biden as their first choice for president, 29% say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about their choice. Among all those who name another candidate as their first choice for president, that number is substantially higher (39%).
Peter Orazem, a 63-year-old poll respondent from Ames, said Biden is his first choice for president, though he said he’s only “mildly enthusiastic” about his choice. He pointed to Biden’s recent reversal of his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.
“I may disagree with everything that Bernie Sanders believes in, and yet I’m fairly confident he believes in what he’s saying,” Orazem said. “And I don’t get that” with Biden.
But ultimately, experience and familiarity elevate Biden above other candidates about whom he’s more enthusiastic, Orazem said.
“He’s a known commodity,” Orazem said of Biden. “He’s been a heartbeat removed from the biggest stage, and he’s actually had executive experience.”
Another potential pitfall for Biden: He has more support among people who say they plan to use the new virtual caucus process than among those who say they will caucus in person.
Among the virtual caucus group, 33% say the former vice president is their first choice. That’s compared with 23% of those who plan to caucus in person. Though more support is never a bad thing, those virtual attendees will count for only 10% of the delegate equivalent total on caucus night.
The results also surface signs of weakness for Sanders. He does better with those less committed to caucusing (20% among probable caucusgoers) than those who definitely plan to participate (14%).
The poll also shows underlying strengths for Harris, who ties with Warren in being named most often as respondents’ second choice for president, with both at 14 percent.
Harris draws strong support from those who say Biden, Warren or Buttigieg is their first choice. But among those who list Sanders as their first choice, just 5% say Harris would be their second choice.
“In caucuses, people drop out,” Selzer said. “To be a strong second-choice player is a good place to be.”
Larry Slavens, a 62-year-old Urbandale resident, said Warren is his first choice for president and Harris is his second.
“She doesn’t back down,” the poll respondent said of Harris. “She was very tough in some of those Senate hearings when witnesses wouldn’t give an answer. She didn’t accept a non-answer as an answer as so many senators do.”
Slavens said Warren and Harris “are both favorites at this point,” but said the months of campaigning ahead could change things.
About this poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted June 2-5, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 600 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably participate in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. These 600 likely Democratic caucus participants were sorted into two discrete groups: 433 who say they plan to attend a caucus in person and 167 who say they plan to participate online or by telephone in a virtual caucus.
Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 3,776 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list.
Questions based on the sample of 433 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses in person have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. Questions based on the sample of 167 voters likely to participate in a virtual caucus have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.7 or 7.6 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.
Because the proposed rules for the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses at the time this poll was conducted include a provision that the results of the in-person caucuses will account for 90 percent of delegate equivalents and the results of the virtual caucuses will account for 10 percent of the delegate equivalents, the first-choice candidate results of this poll have been reported out in three ways: 1) among likely in-person caucus attenders alone; 2) among likely virtual caucus participants alone; and 3) combined in a calculation that gives 90% weight to the preferences of the in-person attenders and 10% weight to the preferences of virtual participants.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.
Read or Share this story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/iowa-poll/caucus/2019/06/09/iowa-poll-biden-leads-democrats-bernie-sanders-elizabeth-warren-pete-buttigieg-caucus-2020/1360801001/