Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the 2020 Democratic presidential field in Iowa, according to a new poll released Thursday that also suggests Pete Buttigieg — a previously unknown, small-city mayor from Indiana — is gaining significant traction with likely caucus-goers.
The Monmouth University poll shows Biden, who hasn’t officially entered the race, is the first choice of roughly a quarter of likely caucusgoers, 27 percent. He’s followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 16 percent and Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., with 9 percent.
That places Buttigieg marginally ahead of a handful of candidates who entered the race with more established profiles: Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are at 7 percent, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is at 6 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is at 4 percent and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is at 3 percent.
The last nonpartisan poll in Iowa — conducted a month ago for CNN, the Des Moines Register and Mediacom, a local cable company — also had Biden atop the field with 27 percent. Sanders was closer, with 25 percent. But Buttigieg was an also-ran in that survey, with just 1 percent.
Buttigieg still lags most of the other major candidates in name recognition, the poll shows. Nearly a quarter of caucusgoers, 24 percent, say they haven’t heard of the mayor of the nation’s 301st-largest city, compared to 3 percent who haven’t heard of Warren, 7 percent who haven’t heard of O’Rourke, 10 percent for Harris and 11 percent for Booker. (Biden and Sanders have universal name-ID among Democrats.)
But Buttigieg has his fans: 45 percent of caucusgoers view him favorably, while 9 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. The remaining 22 percent say they have heard of Buttigieg but don’t have an opinion of the 37-year-old candidate.
“Buttigieg’s current standing in the horse race is impressive given that nearly half of likely Democratic caucusgoers have yet to form an opinion of him,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “He has one of the best positive to negative ratios in the field. He could move up if he is able to maintain that rating as he introduces himself to more voters.”