Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden lead the field in a virtual tie in Iowa, according to the first-in-the-nation caucus state’s definitive poll.
A new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released Saturday evening shows Warren with a slight lead over Biden, 22 percent to 20 percent. The third-place candidate, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is well behind the top two, with 11 percent.
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South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg is fourth, with 9 percent, and California Sen. Kamala Harris is fifth, with 6 percent.
The poll comes as all the major candidates descended on Iowa for the Polk County Democratic Party’s annual steak fry, which drew the largest crowd in the event’s history. But while Warren and Biden were significantly ahead of the rest of the field, there are still strong indications the race remains wide open: Nearly two-in-three likely caucus-goers, 63 percent, say they could be persuaded to change their mind after picking a top choice.
Only two-in-10, 20 percent, say their mind is made up about a first-choice candidate. And more Biden supporters (26 percent) than Warren supporters (12 percent) say their minds are made up about whom they would support.
But there is an enthusiasm gap in Warren’s favor. Nearly one-in-three Warren supporters, 32 percent, say they are “extremely enthusiastic” about caucusing for the Massachusetts senator, compared to 22 percent of Biden’s backers.
And Warren is the second choice for twice as many caucus-goers, 20 percent, as Biden, who is the second choice for only 10 percent of caucus-goers.
The sharpest divide among likely caucus-goers is between younger and older voters. Biden is the first choice of more than a third of seniors aged 65 or older, 35 percent. But Warren is the top choice for caucus-goers under 35, with 27 percent to Sanders’ 11 percent and Biden’s 9 percent.
The Des Moines Register’s poll, conducted by the West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., is considered the most authoritative measure of caucus-goers among public surveys.
The latest poll was conducted Sept. 14-18, surveying 602 likely caucus-goers. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In the previous poll, Biden (24 percent) led Sanders (16 percent) and Warren (15 percent), though the new poll is not directly comparable to the previous survey because of methodological differences between the two polls. In June, the poll included voters who said they would participate in “virtual caucuses,” which the Iowa Democratic Party aimed to add to incorporate voters who were unable to attend caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020.
But since then, the Democratic National Committee has rejected Iowa’s plans, concerned about the security of the virtual caucuses, which were set to account for 10 percent of delegates awarded. The new survey included registered voters who said they “definitely” or “probably” would attend the Democratic caucuses, with no option for a “virtual” caucus.
Warren is the field’s best-liked candidate, with three-in-four caucus-goers, 75 percent, saying they view her favorably. Buttigieg (69 percent) and Biden (66 percent) are second and third on that measure, respectively.
After the top four candidates, Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) are tied for fifth, with just 3 percent. Behind them, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), businessman Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang are at 2 percent.
Gabbard, who was excluded from the third debate earlier this month, is on the verge of becoming the 12th candidate to qualify for the fourth debate in mid-October. According to POLITICO’s calculations, Gabbard only needs to earn 2 percent in one more qualifying poll before the Oct. 1 deadline to make the stage.