(CN) – Joe Biden is in first place in Iowa with the support of 24% of Hawkeye State voters likely to attend their precinct caucus in February, according to a new Monmouth University poll released Monday.
The former vice president knocked former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg out of the top spot he held in Monmouth’s last poll in November.
Following Biden in the top tier of four Democratic candidates were Senator Bernie Sanders, who was backed by 18% of those polled, Buttigieg at 17%, and Senator Elizabeth Warren at 15%. The remaining candidates were in single digits, with Senator Amy Klobuchar coming the closest to breaking into double digits at 8%.
The Monmouth poll comes in contrast to a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Friday where Sanders was the first choice of 20% of Iowa Democrats who said they are likely to attend their Feb. 3 precinct caucus. Biden trailed the Vermont senator by 5 percentage points in the Register’s poll.
Although the Monmouth poll showed Iowans increasingly firm in their choices, less than half said they have firmly decided on a candidate. That’s important in the Iowa caucus process, where a “viable” candidate must have the support of at least 15% of those attending their caucus. If their preferred candidate does not have 15% support, caucusgoers must move into the camp of another candidate who does.
Warren was the top second choice of those polled, with 23%, followed by Buttigieg at 15%, Sanders at 14% and Biden and Klobuchar both at 10%.
Monmoth University’s pollster Patrick Murray said the most notable demographic shift detected in the poll, compared to November, was among voters age 65 and older. Voters in that age group moved away from Buttigieg, who had 11% in the January poll compared to 26% in November, and toward Biden, who had 44% in the latest poll compared to 29% in November.
“A plurality of older voters line up behind Biden, but others in that age group seem to be looking for a fresher face,” Murray said in a statement released with the poll. “They appear to be split between Buttigieg and Klobuchar right now.”
The Monmouth poll results suggest the candidates are right to focus on health care in making their pitch to Iowa voters: When asked to state one or two of their most important issues in deciding which candidate to support, 45% listed health care. Climate change came in second at 18%, followed by foreign policy at 16%.
The survey was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from Jan. 9 to 12. Results are based on 405 voters who are likely to attend their Feb. 3 Democratic presidential caucus. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9%.