ISU poll suggests Iowa Democrats eliminating bottom-tier candidates

A man signs a form at a Linn County Republican caucus on Jan. 23, 2010, at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. The I
A man signs a form at a Linn County Republican caucus on Jan. 23, 2010, at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. The Iowa caucuses will be Feb. 3, 2020. (The Gazette)

There was little change among the top tier in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination over the past month, but a poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers suggests Iowa Democrats are eliminating some candidate from consideration.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remained atop an Iowa State University/Civiqs poll released today at 24 percent.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (21 percent) jumped ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (18 percent) and former Vice President Joe Biden is fourth (15 percent), the poll said.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar rounded out the top five at 4 percent — well below the 15 percent viability threshold required in the Feb. 3 Democratic caucuses.

“And then we have essentially ‘everybody else,’ ” said Dave Peterson, ISU political science professor.

The findings on the second tier of candidates was “probably the most interesting thing out of this wave of the poll.”

That’s because Peterson sees no evidence that any of the second tier is having any sort of breakthrough or “seemed particularly well-primed to move up to that top tier if one of the other candidates falters.”


More evidence that Iowa Democrats are narrowing the field was apparent when they were asked to list their first and second choices and who they are considering.

“Less than 40 percent of Iowa Democrats even listed a single candidate who they were considering after their second choice,” Peterson said. “In contrast, the number of Democrats who listed at least one candidate they did not want increased to just shy of 70 percent.”

That suggests to Peterson “Iowa Democrats are starting to get pretty turned off for the candidates” in the second tier.

The poll results were particularly bad for California businessman Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Peterson said.

When asked an open-ended question on who they didn’t want as a nominee, “a lot of them started saying things like ‘I don’t want either of the billionaires,’ ” Peterson said.

The online survey was sent to selected members of the Civiqs research panel who identify as Democrats and independents and who said they would “definitely” or “probably” attend the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

The Iowa State University/Civiqs poll is funded by Iowa State’s Department of Political Science, Catt Center for Women and Politics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the Vice President for Research and the Whitaker-Lindgren Faculty Fellowship.

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