New polls in Iowa, New Hampshire show Pete Buttigieg on the rise

Two new polls from the states that will be the first to weigh in on the Democratic field next year show former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders continue to stand ahead of the rest of the field, and provide the best evidence yet that the small group of candidates standing just behind those two includes South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

A Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, out Thursday, finds Biden at the top of the pack with 27% support, Sanders at 16%, Buttigieg at 9%, Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren at 7%, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 6%, Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 4%, Sen. Cory Booker at 3%, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at 2%. The rest of the field stood at 1% or less in the poll, with a sizable 12% saying they are undecided among the 24 candidates tested in the poll.

In New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first primary elections, a St. Anselm College poll also out Tuesday shows a similar lineup: Biden at 23%, Sanders at 16%, Buttigieg at 11%, Warren at 9%, Harris at 7%, O’Rourke at 6%, Booker at 4% and Klobuchar at 2%. The rest of the tested field landed at 1% or less. Nearly 1 in 5 said they were undecided or backing someone not named in the list of 14 candidates presented to those who took the poll.

Both surveys show Buttigieg earning broadly positive reviews as voters get to know him, with room still to grow. In Iowa, Monmouth places his favorability rating at 45% positive to 9% negative. That’s a sharp improvement in both awareness and positive ratings. In early March, a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll in Iowa found 73% of likely caucusgoers unsure of how they felt about the South Bend Mayor, while 17% had a positive view and 10% a negative one.

In New Hampshire, St. Anselm finds a similar divide to Monmouth’s Iowa survey: 42% view Buttigieg favorably and 6% have an unfavorable take.

It is worth noting that the error margins for both of these polls are fairly large (plus or minus 5.2 percentage points for the Monmouth poll and 5.4 percentage points for the St. Anselm poll), so Buttigieg’s standing in the surveys is not meaningfully above that of Warren, Harris or O’Rourke in either poll.

Monmouth’s survey in Iowa also delved into likely caucusgoers’ top issues and the importance of electability. About two-thirds (64%) said they would prefer a candidate they don’t agree with on most issues if he or she would be a strong candidate against President Donald Trump over a candidate who shared their views on most issues but who would have a hard time beating Trump. About a quarter said they’d stick with the candidate who matched their views on the issues (24%).

About half (49%) said it is very important to them that the Democrats nominate a candidate who supports “Medicare for All,” 31% said it was that important for the party to nominate someone who supports the Green New Deal, and just 16% considered it very important to back a candidate who supports impeaching Trump.

Overall, 51% named health care in an open-ended question about the top issue in deciding whom to support, 17% named climate change or global warming, 14% each immigration and education, 13% jobs and unemployment, and 12% the environment or pollution. Rounding out the list of issues that hit double-digits: 10% said Donald Trump was their top issue.

The Monmouth poll is among those that will be considered in determining which candidates qualify for the Democratic Party primary debates beginning in June. The 1% reached by former Rep. John Delaney and businessman Andrew Yang in this poll means both have reached at least 1% in three qualifying polls on the race and will meet the polling criteria. Including these two, a total of 14 candidates have hit that mark so far.

The Monmouth University poll was conducted by telephone April 4-9 among 351 likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points. The St. Anselm College poll was conducted by telephone April 3-8 among 326 likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, with an error margin of plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.