(CN) – A poll released Monday shows a three-way tie for the lead in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders catching up to former Vice President Joe Biden.
For the first time since announcing his run for the White House, Biden lost his early lead according to the poll by the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. He slipped to 19%, a steep plummet from 32% in the university’s June poll.
Sanders and Warren both secured the support of 20% of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters surveyed in the national poll. In June, both polled around 15%.
According to Monmouth University, liberal voters are looking at the wide candidate pool while more moderate voters are focused on candidates with name recognition. Most voters polled (58%) say they’re concerned about “Medicare for All,” an important indicator of how they will cast their votes in the upcoming primary.
Support for Biden has tumbled across the board, including with voters of color (down to 19% from 33%), voters without a college degree (down to 18% from 35%) and college graduates (20% from 28%). Both male and female voters have cooled on the former vice president, from 38% to 24% for men and 29% to 16% for women.
The pollsters say Biden’s loss are gains for Warren and Sanders.
Biden has also lost steam in states with early-primary elections, including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, where voters go to the polls in February 2020. Support for Biden in those states dropped from 38% in May 2019 to just 17% this month.
USC Price School of Public Policy senior fellow Sherry Bebitch Jeffe said Monday’s polling results are very early, but not helpful for Biden.
“If I were Joe Biden I wouldn’t be too happy. But if I were Donald Trump I would smile,” Jeffe said in an interview.
Jeffe said Biden has campaigned as essentially a third term of former President Barack Obama, while President Donald Trump has tried to tie what he says are mistakes of the Obama administration to Biden.
“I’m just thinking here that Biden has lost confidence with people of color. Is Obama’s lack of an endorsement laying into Biden’s loss among those voters,” said Jeffe.
She noted Biden is still within the 5.7 margin of error in Monmouth’s latest poll, but highlights that Biden’s stumbles – which are not big stumbles – are being noticed by the Democrat voter base. This is especially true for more liberal, activist youth who Biden cannot easily win from Sanders and Warren.
“The Biden meme is out there. Trump calls him “Sleepy Joe” or calls to question his age. These are just factors that just float around. Trump has an amazing ability to shape other people’s images,” said Jeffe.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the main takeaway from the latest poll is the race has become volatile.
“Liberal voters are starting to cast about for a candidate they can identify with,” said Murray. “Moderate voters, who have been paying less attention, seem to be expressing doubts about Biden. But they are swinging more toward one of the left-leaning contenders with high name recognition rather than toward a lesser known candidate who might be more in line with them politically.”
“Biden’s drop in support is coming disproportionately from later states that have less impact on the process. But if this trend continues it could spell trouble for him in the early states if it undermines his claim to being the most electable candidate,” Murray added.
Support for the remaining 23 candidates has not budged much, with some changing seats for the bottom of the poll.
California Sen. Kamala Harris remained at 8% compared to June, while New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg are at 4%.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Andrew Yang is at 3% and former Obama administration official Julián Castro saw a slight increase to 2% from less than 1% in June. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke fell to 2% from 3% while author Marianne Williamson rose to 2% from just 1% in June.
The remaining 13 candidates enjoyed support of 1% or less, according to the poll.
The telephone poll of 800 adults was taken Aug. 16-20. Results are based on 298 registered voters who identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. The poll has a 5.7% sampling margin of error, according to Monmouth University.