DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Joe Biden maintains a narrow lead among Iowa Democrats heading into the final weeks before the February caucuses, according to a new poll that also shows Bernie Sanders jumping to second place and Elizabeth Warren slipping to fourth.
The WHDH 7 News/Emerson College poll released Wednesday shows former Vice President Biden with the support of 23% of those polled. Sanders trailed close behind at 22%, with Pete Buttigieg at 18%, Warren at 12% and Amy Klobuchar with 10%. The remaining 15 candidates polled in single digits or less.
“The most movement in this poll, as compared to the last Emerson poll in October, is Warren’s downward slide from frontrunner status, and Sanders’ subsequent gain,” Emerson College said in a statement released with the poll. “Warren and Biden had 23% each in October. While Biden held his numbers in this poll, Warren fell 11 points.”
Klobuchar’s Iowa support jumped from just 1% in October to 10% in December, while support for Buttigieg was steady over the two polls, posting a slight gain of 2 points to 18% in December.
Iowans will go to Democratic precinct caucuses Feb. 3 to select their top picks for the Democratic nomination for president.
Since the Iowa caucuses are the first official Democratic Party selection event in the nation, the caucuses are considered a key proving ground for would-be presidential candidates. Even if the Iowa caucus process does not always pick the party’s eventual nominee, it at least winnows the field.
This election cycle, major Democratic candidates hoping to get a ticket out of Iowa have spent months in the state, attending meet-and-greet events from convention halls and Main Street cafes to living rooms.
Under the rules for Iowa’s Democratic caucuses, caucusgoers form into groups behind their top pick. But if their first choice does not have a minimum percentage of supporters, those voters must join with those supporting another candidate until the minimum is met.
The Emerson poll released Wednesday showed how that could play out, as poll participants were asked to name their No. 2 choice.
More than a quarter of Biden’s supporters (27%) named Warren as their second choice, compared to 24% for Sanders, 23% for Buttigieg and 14% for Klobuchar.
Among those backing Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, 42% named Warren as their next choice, compared to 20% for Biden, 12% for Yang and 9% for Buttigieg.
Of those supporting Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, 51% picked Sanders as a second choice, 19% for Buttigieg, and 5% for Biden.
Among supporters of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Buttigieg, 26% picked Biden, 23% Sanders, 22% Warren and 12% Klobuchar.
For backers of Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, 27% chose Warren as their No. 2, compared to 22% for Buttigieg and Yang and 11% for Biden.
Among the supporters of the candidates not in the top five, Buttigieg leads their second choice with 29%, followed by Sanders with 18%, Klobuchar with 17%, Warren with 12% and Biden with 7%.
“The second-choice question suggests that Mayor Pete might be in better shape than his 18% because nearly 1 in 3 voters who are initially supporting a less viable candidate breaks towards Pete as their second option,” said Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson Polling.
When the poll participants were asked about the candidates’ health care policies, a plurality, or 31%, said Sanders had the best plan with his “Medicare for all” proposal, followed by Buttigieg (19%), Biden (18%), Warren (13%) and Klobuchar (9%).
More than half of respondents (55%) between the ages of 18 and 29 said Sanders had the best plan, while just 10% of those above 65 held the same opinion.
In deciding which presidential candidate to vote for, just under a third (32%) cited the economy, followed by health care (19%), social issues (14%) and impeachment (5%). Indeed, 50% of Iowans polled said they oppose impeachment of President Donald Trump, compared to 38% who support it and 12% haven’t made up their minds.
The poll was conducted Dec. 7 to 10 with a sample of 1,043 registered voters. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.