Senator Elizabeth Warren has overtaken Joe Biden in Iowa for the first time in the state’s most influential poll. The latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll, released Saturday night, found that 22 percent of registered Democrats now say that Warren is their first choice among the Democratic presidential candidates, giving her a two-point lead over Biden and an 11-point lead over fellow progressive Bernie Sanders, whose first-choice support has fallen to just 11 percent of respondents. Though the results have a four-point margin of error, the gold-standard Register poll has consistently shown that Warren, with her impressive Iowa field organization, has continued to gain support in the state, particularly as other candidates in the wide Democratic field have lost luster among voters.
Indeed, perhaps the best news for Warren in the poll, other than the new and narrow lead, is that 71 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers are now either supporting her or considering it — including the 22 percent who say she’s their first choice, another 20 percent who say she is their second choice, and 29 percent who say they are actively considering her as their potential pick. In addition, 75 percent of respondents viewed Warren favorably, besting South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (69 percent) and Biden (66 percent).
Meanwhile, 60 percent of Iowa Democrats said they were considering Biden — though there is more confidence among his first-choice supporters than any others, with 26 percent saying they’ll definitely vote for the former vice-president, compared with just 12 percent of Warren supporters saying the same about her. 88 percent of Warren’s first-choicers said they were open to changing their minds, as did 70 percent of Biden backers. Overall, just one in five would-be caucus-goers said they had made up their mind with less than five months to go before the Iowa caucuses on February 3.
Widely respected Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer emphasized the current flexibility of Iowans’ support in her analysis of the results, telling the Register that while the poll was the “first major shakeup” of the race, she still saw “opportunity aplenty” for candidates to shake things up again. “The leaders aren’t all that strong,” she commented on Saturday. “The universe is not locked in.”
That being said, Bernie Sanders has been consistently losing support in Iowa, according to the Register’s polling, as some of his most important constituencies have shifted to Warren. Per the new poll, nearly a third of the Iowans who caucused for Sanders in 2016 now plan to caucus for Warren instead, while only a quarter say they’ll repeat for Bernie. She leads among voters under 35, 27 percent of whom now consider Warren their first choice, to Sanders’s 22 percent (and Biden’s 9 percent.) Warren’s support among the very liberal is even higher, with 48 percent now backing her, versus only 20 percent for Sanders.
As expected, Biden continues to command the most support from older Democrats, attracting 35 percent of likely caucus-goers 65 and older — a nearly three-to-one lead over Warren among that demographic. And it’s not clear how Warren’s campaign for “big structural change” will sound to them or to the 59 percent of Iowa Democrats who expect the U.S. government to return to normal when the norm-demolishing Trump is out of the White House.
Only 28 percent of respondents said they were “extremely enthusiastic” about their current first-choice candidates, but note the gap at the top: 32 percent of Warren supporters were extremely enthusiastic about her, compared to 22 percent of Biden supporters, which is down from 29 percent in the June edition of the Register poll. (Looking at Biden’s not-great favorability trends, Selzer speculated that “he’s not wearing well” in the state.)
Lastly, Iowans were asked to weigh in a some electability factors as well. The ability to beat Trump was the most important candidate criteria for 63 percent of respondents, while 31 percent favored likemindedness on issues. As to what makes a candidate more electable, 74 percent said that the ability to excite and turn out out new voters mattered more than turning out the base (which was favored by 16 percent); 63 percent said positions which found common group with the GOP mattered more than leftward-moving ones (which was favored by 28 percent); 57 percent thought representing a new generation of leadership mattered more than a long record of government service (which was favored by 28 percent); and 54 percent of Democrats thought taking “the high road” against Trump was also important. (The muddy road was more important for 35 percent.)