Poll: Elizabeth Warren Jumps Out To Big Lead In The Iowa Caucus

By Pat Rynard
August 15, 2019

Elizabeth Warren’s early investment in Iowa is paying off.

A new Iowa Starting Line-Change Research poll shows the senator opening up a commanding lead in the Iowa Caucus. Warren was the top pick of 28% of likely Iowa Caucus-goers in the poll, an 11-point lead over the nearest competitor. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were both tied for second with 17% each. Pete Buttigieg came in fourth at 13% and Kamala Harris has the backing of 8%.

Both Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke garnered 3% of caucus-goers’ support, while Steve Bullock, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer got on the board at 2%. Julian Castro, Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang rounded out the field at 1%, while everyone else had less than that.

The poll was conducted online August 9 to 11, right in the middle of peak Iowa State Fair campaigning, and surveyed 621 likely Democratic caucus-goers on questions related to the Democratic horserace. That part of the poll had a ±3.9% margin of error.

The horserace numbers reflect a shake-up that those of us on the ground in Iowa have been seeing for a while. It also shows significant movement from our last Starting Line-Change Research poll from May 15 to 19. Here’s where the top candidates stood in that poll, along with their movement since:

May Poll (change to August)
Joe Biden: 24% (-7)
Bernie Sanders: 24% (-7)
Pete Buttigieg: 14% (-1)
Elizabeth Warren: 12% (+16)
Kamala Harris: 10% (-2)
Beto O’Rourke: 5% (-2)

Today’s results come after an incredibly packed week of campaigning in Iowa, one where enthusiasm and organization on the ground for candidates like Warren were readily apparent.

The senator spent a considerable amount of time on Iowa trips during the winter and spring, locking in activists and volunteers early on. Warren was also the quickest in the field to build up a strong ground game here, stocked with veteran Iowa Caucus staffers.

In this poll, Sanders has not fallen as much in the standings as in some early other states, but he has slipped from his previous first-place tie with Biden. His core group of support in Iowa has slowly shrunk down to the left-most activist base, but he also has the potential to turn out many new caucus-goers, which may be more accurately reflected in online polls such as these.

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The good news for progressives is that the two most left-leaning candidates command nearly half of the support in the incredibly fractured Democratic field. The recent concerns that Warren and Sanders would split the progressive base too much for either to succeed does not appear to be happening, or at least not in Iowa for the moment.

Biden, on the other hand, risks a costly defeat in the lead-off state if his numbers continue in this downward direction. This poll was conducted in the few days after his latest gaffe on the Iowa campaign trail where he stumbled over a line talking about “poor” kids and “white” kids. He has, however, ramped up his staffing in Iowa in recent weeks, now running one of the largest operations here.

Meanwhile, Buttigieg maintains a strong showing among the top candidates, even after his candidacy cooled off in most national polls this summer as he dealt with policing controversies back home. Buttigieg was greeted very warmly by Iowa crowds during his trip this past week, though he’ll still need to move at some point in this Midwestern early state.

Harris, who has decided to go all-in for the Iowa Caucus, holds a decent base of support in this survey, but isn’t showing the momentum she had in other polls following her strong debate performances.

The poll also shows Booker starting to pop up on the radar a little more, which many Iowa politics watchers have been expecting for some time. And it’s not terrible news for O’Rourke, who had nearly disappeared off of other polls around the country.

The other good news for Warren is that her support appears to be very broad in the party. She leads every age demographic (even surpassing Biden in the oldest age bracket, 31% to 28%) except for the youngest. Sanders has a 14-point lead here among the 18-34 range with 34%.

There are many other fascinating breakdowns in support, as well as considerable data on other aspects of the Iowa Caucus race and the general election contest here, which can be purchased with the full poll from Change Research.


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by Pat Rynard
Posted 8/15/19

  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.



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